School counseling and mental health resources are only as effective as they are relatable, implying that personalizing these mental health care resources is vital to help students and educators with their mental health. AAPI students are a diverse group who face many stressors like balancing school values with family values, stigma, and high expectations for achievement. Making sure that school counselors are aware of AAPI cultural values is important to provide effective and equitable mental health care. Historically, the AAPI community has underutilized school counseling services and mental health resources, suggesting that schools should prioritize strategies to deliver culturally sensitive mental health care.
Stigma & The Model Minority Stereotype
Across generations, AAPI individuals have faced systemic racism, poverty, and trauma that can underplay mental health issues. Underestimating mental health issues is dangerous because it can prolong them, and lead to even more severe mental health issues over time or even suicide. For example, an AAPI parent might dismiss any emotional expression from their child about their challenges in school or socially due to stigma, making the child feel they cannot experience mental health issues. Growing up in a household that does not accept emotional expression can transfer to the way that kids view their emotions into adulthood to negatively impact their mental health.
In AAPI communities there is also an increased pressure to succeed to be the “model minority” and help break the cycle of poverty that is common for these groups. One of Neolth’s students, Nambita, shared her experience as a woman in AAPI culture, sharing that there are gender norms that require women to learn to cook, achieve certain beauty standards, etc. that can worsen mental health for AAPI women compared to men. It's important for schools to remain aware of cultural factors like this that impact AAPI student mental health.
Culturally Competent Counseling
Mental health school counseling and resources can better support AAPI students by understanding the environment they originate from to overcome obstacles and adjust to their needs. Creating culturally mindful school counseling programs and resources is vital to mitigate the youth mental health crisis. Being culturally mindful of AAPI communities through understanding their unique gender norms, academic pressures, and attitudes towards emotional expression is a step in the right direction towards making mental health care equitable for AAPI communities. Nambita shares that there is generational trauma in AAPI communities that exacerbate mental illness and prevent treatment. School counseling programs and mental health resources that are culturally inclusive and mindful can help interfere with the cycle of trauma.
Supporting AAPI Students in School
The combination of emotional suppression and intense pressure to succeed is overwhelming, suggesting that AAPI students are at a disadvantage when it comes to mental health. Making school counseling and resources sensitive to AAPI culture is important to get students the help that they need without offending familial or cultural values. A student and their parents are more likely to seek help if the care fits within their own values and cultural norms. For example, offering on campus mental health resources like guided meditations in AAPI students native languages is one way to make resources more relatable and accessible.
Within school counseling services, understanding and knowing how to navigate common cultural factors that contribute to mental health struggles is a good step in the right direction. The Integrative Model, includes a cross cultural perspective that reflects an understanding of minority mental health. In this model, ethnicity frames student experience within their environment. The counseling sequence involves finding a common ground and including parents, from a culturally sensitive approach. For instance, saying that a student is “depressed” to AAPI parents might render little support, whereas if the counselor says to these parents that the child needs support with academics, then they are more likely to be willing to help because succeeding is a cultural value for the family.
How Neolth Can Help
If you are looking to learn more about how to make mental health care more culturally appropriate and personalized for AAPI students and teachers, Neolth is a digital stress and mental health support program for students and educators. We’re on a mission to help you stress less, build resilience, and become a part of our compassionate community. Our app helps you when you’re feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for your mental health journey. Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 170 schools and works with schools to improve access to mental health support for their students and teachers alike. You can learn more at neolth.com or sign up today at cloud.neolth.com.