Plain Language Summary: Considerations for Improving Services for Asian Americans with Disabilities and Mental Health Concerns

The Asian American population is increasing, and with it grows the need for services that effectively work with people of different cultures. Currently, the Asian American use of mental health services is low. There are many reasons why individuals may not be accessing services. One example is difficulty finding providers who are culturally competent.

Perceptions around mental health and disabilities vary by culture. For example, learning about autism is difficult in Filipino culture, according to one Filipina woman. There is less education about disabilities. When symptoms or individual needs seem to go against cultural values, stigma grows. For example, some Asian Americans have said their families’ culture emphasizes being strong. In this instance, seeking mental health services can be viewed as weakness. In some Asian American cultures, receiving family acceptance is very important. This may further complicate the decision to receive mental health services due to fear of judgement. Some research shows that families who have lived in America longer than two generations are more likely to obtain mental health services.

There are several recommendations for improving services. Service providers should try to understand how families may view diagnoses, without judgement. This may include inviting someone close to the family to help share their experiences. Providers can also work together with families to create treatment plans that incorporate cultural values. Providers may need to explain what resources are available and connect clients with resources that are produced in their preferred language. Finally, providers may need to improve their outreach efforts.

For more information and links to several resources, check out the Considerations for Improving Services for Asian Americans with Disabilities and Mental Health Concerns fact sheet.

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