The covid pandemic and racism against Asian Americans in US
Researchers have found that pandemic experiences of racial discrimination were associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression. This was certainly true for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the past few years, who endured bigotry and racist attacks after President Donald Trump labeled the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.”
As an Asian therapist, I witnessed firsthand the effect xenophobia and racism had on my community. One client said they started to question whether moving to America was the right decision, as they hadn’t realized that racism toward Asians was so prevalent.
Another talked about the hours they would spend scrolling through videos of hate incidents, feeling angry, anxious and hopeless about the future and the potential for change. One client even said they started to carry a pocketknife when they went out in public.
Before the pandemic, about 20 percent of my clients were Asian-identified individuals. Now it’s closer to 60 percent. Bango Gancinia, a psychologist in Utah, said he has more such individuals coming to therapy and with higher levels of distress than his other clients.
I’m seeing more Asian clients in my practice, but the reality is that Asians tend not to seek mental health help. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that in 2019, 7 percent of Asian Americans sought mental health services, less than for almost any other racial group. By comparison, 20 percent of non-Hispanic White adults and 10 percent of Black and Hispanic adults seek mental health care.
Only 3.3 percent of psychologists are Asians, even though Asians make up 6.2 percent of the U.S. population. This has left some providers, including myself, overwhelmed by the large number of patient requests and unable to work with everyone who contacts us.
Shuyun David Lo, director of psychiatry at the University of California, Santa Cruz Health Services, said that he’s seen it, too. More Asian students are coming in to address the anxiety they feel about their safety and that of their elders, as attacks on Asian elders have been well-documented by the media.
Jason Wu, PhD, is an Asian American psychologist working near San Francisco, California