Celebrating National Asian American,Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Mental Health Day

For Immediate Release


Washington, DC – The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) and Change Matrix are pleased to announce that this week is the first anniversary of May 10th being recognized as National Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Mental Health Day. We are truly grateful to the leadership of Rep Chu who presented this historic resolution to Congress for the first-time last year and has ensured that this resolution will be presented this May and each May 10th hereafter. NAAPIMHA and Change Matrix helped create this resolution which will play a key role in not only raising awareness around the growing mental health needs of AANHPIs, but it is intended to also help drive critical resources to AANHPI serving community based behavioral health organizations that are the backbone to improving care.


COVID-19 made it clear that now more than ever this country needs to pay serious attention to mental health, and this includes addressing the needs of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIS). AANHPIs are the fastest growing population, yet the least likely to seek mental health services. This leads to the misperception that they have few if any problems, only adding to the myth of the model minority. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), AANHPIs have the lowest help-seeking rate of any racial/ethnic group, with only 23.3% of AANHPI adults with a mental illness receiving treatment in 2019. This, in spite of the fact that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the leading cause of death for AA and NH/PI between the ages of 15-24.


According to NAAPIMHA’s Executive Director, Dr. DJ Ida, “Access is cited as key to reducing disparities in care but for many AANHPIs, there is little for them to access. Many do not seek services due to the stigma associated with mental health. The current service delivery system also fails to provide intervention strategies that reflect the communities’ cultural beliefs and practices, including ways of healing. While western modes of therapy such as talk therapy can be very powerful, it is not the only way of healing and for some, a strategy they chose to avoid. In the current environment, providers who are working in AANHPI serving community-based organizations are burning out due to the growing demand for their time and limited resources to hire and train additional staff. This resolution can bring attention to the ongoing critical shortage of bi-lingual, bi-cultural providers including paraprofessionals who can improve the workforce in a timely and cost-effective manner. Improving services should also redefine what constitutes effective healing practices.”


Change Matrix founding director, Dr. Rachele Espiritu also indicated that “A national resolution is essential for raising awareness around the need to improve the mental health of AANHPIs but working at the local level is equally important. Resources and development of programs within a specific school district, city, county or state can often better define the needs of a particular population. It may also have the advantage of allowing smaller organizations to be competitive for resources that may be difficult when competing at the national level. It is therefore important to make change at all levels.”


NAAPIMHA is hosting a series of events throughout the month of May and invite you to join them. On May 10th they will be joined by Rep. Judy Chu who will talk about the national resolution. This will be followed by a panel consisting of Dr. Nira Singh, Director of Behavioral Services at Asian Americans for Community Involvement in Santa Clara, CA; Dr. Patrick Kamakawiwo’ole a private practitioner working with AANHPIs in Honolulu, HI and Ms. Theanvy Kuoch, Founder of Khmer Health Advocates Inc, In Hartford, CT and a leading expert on trauma informed care with refugee.


On May 17th NAAPIMHA will talk about healing through the arts. Allyson Goto and Jennifer Nguyen will highlight individuals who participated in the Asians*in Focus and heART’s hope project using a range of art forms including painting, photography, dance, the spoken word, and other creative expressions.


On May 24th NAAPIMHA and Change Matrix will facilitate an informal discussion and provide an opportunity for organizations, individuals and anyone interested in sharing lessons learned from the community on what works, what doesn’t and things they would like to see.


Please join NAAPIMHA and Change Matrix as they celebrate May as AANHPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. Register for any of the sessions by going to www.naapimha.org

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