July is Mental Health Awareness in Communities of Color Month

CAPAA issued the following press release on July 6, 2016 to promote Mental Health Awareness in Communities of Color Month.

July is Mental Health Awareness in Communities of Color Month
CAPAA encourages API communities to talk about mental health

Olympia – The Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) is encouraging efforts to promote mental health awareness in Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities. Mental health is essential to overall well-being, yet research shows that APIs are less likely to seek help for mental health issues due to social stigma, linguistic and cultural disconnects, and lack of access to health care.

“In many Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, people believe there is no help or hope for people with mental health problems and there is something shameful about them,” said Diane Narasaki, executive director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS). “However, just as we can all experience physical health problems, we can all experience mental health problems at some point in our lives.”

CAPAA encourages community conversations to promote dialogue and to raise awareness about mental health issues among APIs in observance of Mental Health Awareness in Communities of Color Month. The Commission believes that reducing the stigma around mental health issues is key in increasing the numbers of APIs who seek treatment.

Earlier this year, student leaders at the University of Washington organized an API Mental Health & Wellness summit. More than 150 students and community members shared stories and attended workshops about how historical trauma, cultural attitudes, and identity relate to API mental health.

“From our event, we’ve seen that even complete strangers can come together and create a community that allows us to feel safe and share our stories,” said Brandon Hadi, a co-founder of the summit. “We created a space where we fought back against stigma by listening and understanding each other. We fought back with compassion. By choosing compassion and understanding every day, we can all do our part in de-stigmatizing mental illness in our communities.”

“It is important to acknowledge the beautiful diversity among the API community and recognize the different and all relevant ways of approaching mental health for each unique population,” said Solana Rollolazo, a co-founder of the summit. “Through advocacy, education, and unity, both within and beyond those who identify with the API community, I believe we can begin healing and addressing all facets of API mental health.”

To improve mental well-being in API communities, a National Alliance on Mental Illness report recommended mental health services that provide linguistically and culturally responsive care and the recruitment of bilingual and bicultural API staff. Community-based organizations such as ACRS are striving to provide culturally relevant services for diverse API communities, including immigrant, refugee or American-born.

“With treatment and support, people with mental health problems can lead active, productive lives and contribute to their communities,” Narasaki said. “Treatment works and recovery is possible. I hope we all learn and talk more about mental health and help our loved ones seek help and treatment because it can save and improve their lives and the lives of those they love.”

For resources and information about Mental Health Awareness in Communities of Color Month, visit www.capaa.wa.gov.