Being a Mental Health Ally to AAPI Colleagues

Multi-ethnic group of coworkers talking

May is both Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. It is important to take a look at the intersection of AAPI communities and Mental Health Awareness because they have been treated as a monolithic group, are historically overlooked, and have the lowest help-seeking rate of any racial/ethnic group.

AAPI is an umbrella term that broadly encompasses a diverse and growing population in the United States with cultural ties to the Asian continent—including East, Southeast, and South Asia—Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

1. In East, South, and Southeastern Asian communities, speaking about mental health can often be a taboo subject. As Chinese American Amanda Rosenberg describes in Vox, the model minority stereotype can be internalized and comes with expectations of appearing strong or perfect.

2. South Asian immigrants in particular may deal with conflict and pressure associated with pursuing a Westernized idea of individual expression, but feel an obligation to familial traditions and expectations, Nawal Mustafa writes in The Conversation.

3. Pacific Islanders, including Native Hawaiians, also deal with a culture that tends to minimize mental health concerns in favor of cultural practices or religion. However, instead of battling the model minority or family responsibility burden, they face a different set of obstacles rooted in systemic oppression more like what Black or Native Americans might face.

Mental health concerns can look vastly different for each person and within each community of the AAPI diaspora, but it’s helpful to understand this diversity as part of creating an inclusive culture in the workplace.

Our country has a history of creating umbrella groups to simplify; that categorization has its necessary time and place for certain aspects of society-building. However, recognizing the unique circumstances within each community’s struggles can also be helpful too especially when it comes to building inclusivity in the workplace and increasing access to culturally-competent resources for everyone.

RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit

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