According to the report, released by Stop AAPI Hate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Boston and the Asian American Psychological Association, 71.7% of Asian Americans who have experienced racism were more stressed about anti-Asian hate than they were of the global pandemic. Additionally, those who reported incidents of crime were less likely to have race-based traumatic stress. Researchers define race-based traumatic stress as psychological or emotional harm caused by racism, NBC News reported.
The findings were based on the examination of three studies, which investigated the effects of anti-Asian racism on mental health. Of the three studies, one surveyed individuals who had experienced racism and found that 1 in 5 Asian Americans who have experienced racism during the pandemic displayed at least three signs of racial trauma, including depression, intrusive thoughts, anger, hypervigilance, decreased self-esteem, and numbing.
“So often, a part of the AAPI experience is being silenced and invisible. And so many of those things exacerbate the challenges we are facing,” Dr. Warren Ng, psychiatry medical director at New York-Presbyterian Hospital said of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He noted that reporting can help a person have a sense of control which is often lost after an incident of hate.
Something “that [can] help people manage things that they cannot control is the focus on the things that they can,” he said. “It’s taking action, whether or not it’s reporting to a mechanism.” Ng added that the signs of trauma victims face may stem from a loss of agency, when “you have no control over how you look, how you appear to others.”
“At the same time, it’s not something you can modify,” he added. “Therefore, you feel constantly in stress and are vulnerable to those kinds of experiences.”
Ng noted that those who shared that they no longer have signs of racial trauma after reporting likely felt that way because reporting can be connected to having that feeling of agency restored. But while this new research has connected reporting to a feeling of less trauma, the fact remains that most crimes do go underreported.
According to Stop AAPI Hate, while 3,800 anti-hate incidents were reported in the last year, the number is likely to be higher due to the number of those crimes that go unreported. Researchers and advocates have connected a decline in hate crimes reported to both cultural norms and mistrust of officials.
“There is a sense in this community that we need to survive and move forward,” Joo Han, deputy director of the Asian American Federation said. “And until we have access to services in certain Asian languages, the quality of help is not going to be great all the time. Many don’t trust law enforcement because they haven’t had the best experiences with them. They don’t think they’ll be listened to.”
Fear of retaliation, general law enforcement, and immigration status are among the many factors that deter Asians from reporting crimes, and reporting to agencies like Stop AAPI Hate directly can combat this, Ng said. He noted that giving people the choice of whether they would like to be contacted by the police and how much information will be shared allows for their fears of reporting to be addressed.
Additionally, despite research verifying the mental toll hate crimes and discrimination have had on the community, many members of the AAPI community are reluctant to seek help because of cultural stigmas. According to NBC News, Asian Americans are a third as likely to seek mental health help when compared to their white counterparts. Additionally, while they report fewer mental health conditions than their white counterparts, they are more likely to consider and attempt suicide. According to Ng, cultural stigmas that have created barriers to mental health treatment include the fear of bringing shame to the family or community for having such issues in addition to internalized racism that deters immigrant communities from seeking out resources.
“There’s such an acceptance that ‘we’re going to be treated this way anyway, so get over it—instead of being bitter, be better,'” Ng said. “It’s always a concept of ‘we’ve already accepted that this is our fate, that we don’t have it any better. We are not equals.'”
While the norms are changing, addressing issues of mental health still remains a stigma in many AAPI communities.
“It goes against that idea of individualism versus collectivism and whether or not we are here for ourselves” or “are we here representing our families and our community,” Ng said. “There’s also the cultural issues related to interdependence, where you rely on your family or your close-knit people instead of reaching out outside of your network, because of that sense of idea of interdependence.”
But cultural stigmas are not the only thing that deters individuals from seeking help. Resources and treatment are often seen through a Western lens with cultural competency and understanding being nonexistent. Without therapists and resources that address cultural sensitivities or that understand stigmas and norms, it becomes difficult for people to seek help. The different dynamics within cultures in addition to the norms and traditions play an essential part in how many Asian Americans live. Without understanding this, health care professionals will be unable to properly serve the Asian American community. This is why culturally specific advocacy and training is essential to serving minority communities in the U.S.
But having a therapist who is of Asian descent doesn’t solve the problem if they too are not culturally aware, Ng noted. “If that person isn’t aware of their own baggage with regards to their own internalized racism or their own limitations for a social lens, or maybe they grew up in the U.S. and never even thought of themselves as different … that can really limit someone’s experience” of therapy, Ng said. “Just because it’s an identity doesn’t mean there’s an awareness.”
A lot of different factors impact the way treatment is given and received in minority communities. Until we are able to adequately train and equip professionals these stigmas and lack of resources that serve the community will continue.
As research on the importance of hate crime reporting continues, we can only hope that not only do more individuals report crimes but the crimes themselves decrease. Now more than ever, the API community needs our support. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends. Hate is the real virus and we must end it.
If you are placed in physical danger because of your ethnicity, religion, race, or identity, call the police (dial 911 in the U.S.), or click here to contact your local FBI office. It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and threats of violence. You can also report a hate crime to the FBI online using this form. To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Stop the AAPI Hate, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.