By Darrick Lam, President and CEO of ACC Senior Services
The last few years have been undeniably difficult – not only because of the social isolation, loss, and stress from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community, we have also been afraid for our safety and our lives.
The rise in hate crimes against AAPI community members has reverberated. This fear for ourselves and our loved ones is a constant, looming stressor in our hearts and minds.
As we observe AAPI Heritage Month, I want to take the opportunity to address the importance of supporting mental health in our community – now more than ever.
For many of my fellow community members, the physical, mental, and emotional toll of these recent stressors has led to them experiencing mental health symptoms for the first time. For others, their mental health symptoms or conditions may have worsened.
Unfortunately, among the Cantonese-speaking community specifically, there is significant shame and embarrassment around mental health conditions. Many are afraid to speak to friends or loved ones about symptoms they are experiencing because they are worried that they will be shunned for being “crazy” or that community members will think spirits possess them.
The truth is that mental health conditions are as naturally occurring as physical health conditions. Just as we would not think less of someone for having a heart condition, a mental health condition should not change how we perceive a friend or loved one.
And like a physical health condition, the sooner you get help, the better it will be for your overall health and well-being. Talking to your doctor about treatment options and tools to manage mental health symptoms will prevent the symptoms from worsening and allow those living with mental health symptoms or conditions to lead a fulfilling, healthy life.
As Cantonese-speaking community members, alongside other AAPI communities, continue to carry this burden of fear for our physical safety, we have to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health conditions to support the mental health and wellness of our community and loved ones as a united front.
Only by reducing the stigma and shame around mental health conditions can we ensure our friends, family, and loved ones have access to the support and treatment they need. They deserve to know that there is hope and help available.
For the past ten years, the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project has been working to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions, promote mental health and wellness and inspire hope for people and families living with mental health conditions Sacramento County. The project conducts focused outreach to local multi-cultural communities, including the Cantonese-speaking community.
To learn more about reducing stigma among the Cantonese-speaking community, I encourage everyone to visit the StopStigmaSacramento.org community webpage here to learn how you can fight the stigma around mental health conditions. Additionally, English and Cantonese conversation-starters are available here if you are unsure how to connect with someone who may be struggling with their mental health, and there are resources listed here for those who want to seek treatment. Or consider joining the Stop Stigma Speakers Bureau, where you can share your personal story of living with a mental health condition or supporting a family member with a mental health condition to help dispel myths and stereotypes about mental health conditions. Lastly, learn about the Senior Safety Collaborative here, where you can find details about our Senior Escort Program for seniors who feel unsafe or uncomfortable in public without accompaniment – whether it’s just for a walk or a trip to the grocery store, we want to make sure you feel safe leaving your home.