Posted on May 15, 2013
When the planes hit the World Trade Center on 9-11, clients rushed to a Hartford clinic in a panic.
They were, for the most part, Southeast Asians who’d immigrated to this country after the Vietnam War. The clients, not fluent in English and still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, came in hysterics crying, “Is it happening again? Is it happening again?” Connecticut has just one clinic funded by the state Department of Mental Health and AddictionServices that treats primarily Asian-Americans. The clinic, in Hartford, serves Connecticut’s Asian-Pacific community, which includes people from 21 countries who speak 35 different languages. The Office of Minority Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that, of the Southeast Asians who seek mental health care, 70 percent have been diagnosed with PTSD.
And that’s just the people who see a doctor. By far, their peers — due to language barriers and cultural preferences — do not seek treatment, said Mui Mui Hin-McCormick, executive director of the state’sAsian Pacific American Affairs Commission. The majority of them carry the burden of war trauma and if they aren’t precisely suffering in silence, they are suffering without treatment.
“The older generation is very reluctant to access medical care,” and “the mental health stigma is very high,” Hin-McCormick said. Instead, community members often wait until there is a critical physical manifestation, and even then, they see a doctor only at the insistence of younger family members.
Ironically, the reluctance to seek care is viewed as stoicism by the greater culture, which has assigned to the Asian-Pacific community nearly superhuman powers. In 1966, American sociologist William Petersen used the term “model minority” to describe Asian-Americans who, despite facing discrimination and marginalization, had nevertheless succeeded in the U.S. The idea has long since been discredited, though Asian-Americans still find themselves facing impossible expectations.
In fact, the Super Asian ideal has been inculcated into much of the Asian-Pacific culture, as well. M. Angela Rola, director of the University of Connecticut‘s Asian American Cultural Center, runs a program in which she assigns would-be mentors the task of writing about their culture. Students