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Strickland, Chu, Kahele, Matsui Introduce First Congressional Resolution to Recognize May 10th as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Mental Health Day

May 11, 2021

Washington, D.C. –Yesterday, Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) joined Representatives Judy Ch (CA-27), Kai Kahele (HI-02), and Doris Matsui (CA-06) in introducing the first congressional resolution to recognize May 10th as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Mental Health Day. This resolution calls upon Members of Congress to promote national awareness of mental health issues unique to the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community and urges State and local health agencies across the nation to improve the quality and availability of mental health services for this population.  Joining Strickland, Chu, Kahele, and Matsui asoriginal cosponsors include: Reps. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Mark Takano (CA-41), Susie Lee (NV-3), Adam Smith (WA-9), and Grace Meng (NY-6). (Please find a copy of the resolution at this link.)

“Ending the stigma surrounding mental health care in the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community is long overdue,” said Congresswoman Strickland. “The sickening rise in anti-Asian hate crimes has stressed our community and we need to prioritize the mental health and wellbeing of our friends, loved ones, and elders. I’m proud to join Reps. Chu, Kahele, and Matsui in introducing this resolution to not only raise awareness of the mental health care needs in our community, but also call for the federal support needed to reduce health disparities and barriers faced by AANHPIs.”

“This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, more Americans than ever are rallying around our community to help stop anti-Asian hate. But there is another long-term threat to the wellbeing of our communities, and that is the lack of mental healthcare that meets the needs of the AANHPI community,” said Congresswoman Chu. “Either because of stigma or the lack of linguistically and culturally appropriate care, many AANHPIs neglect their mental health, and it has resulted in disproportionate rates of problems like suicide and depression. That is why, today and for the rest of Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s essential that we urge all AANHPIs to take care of their mental health just as they would their physical health. We also have to address the barriers and disparities that keep the AANHPI community from accessing quality health care, such as the need for translation services, or lack of access to health insurance. That is why I am so proud to introduce this resolution and, with the help and support of my House colleagues, continue to reduce the stigma around the mental health struggles of the AANHPI community.”

“Nearly all of us have a friend, family member, or loved one who lives with a mental illness. That is why it is critical that we continue to break down barriers to care and work to end the stigma in our communities,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Especially over the past year, members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities have been challenged by both the pandemic and the rise in anti-AAPI racism. Now, more than ever, we must meet this moment with a comprehensive health care strategy that prioritizes our mental health and well-being. I am proud to co-lead this resolution to raise awareness across the nation about the social injustice for care in the AAPI community and call for the resources and mental health infrastructure necessary to aid our recovery.”

“I’m proud to join my colleagues in recognizing May 10th as National Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Mental Health Day, and raising awareness to this very important issue nationally,” said Congressman Kahele. “Our communities struggle daily with mental health wellness at alarmingly disproportionate rates. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, specifically, are less likely to receive the mental health services they need, including access to prescription medications. Today, we recognize the need to support those who are most vulnerable and increase accessibility to mental health service providers for all communities.”

The resolution has been endorsed by: Richmond Area Multi-Services (RAMS), Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC).

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA): “Our mental health is impacted by all aspects of our lives, yet it is a topic that AANHPIs seldom talk about.  This resolution can play a critical role in raising awareness around the importance of having difficult conversations while also recognizing that mental health is also about celebrating who we are as we embrace our cultural heritage.”

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF): “AANHPI communities have some of the greatest mental health needs, but access to culturally competent and in-language services remain a barrier that has only been exasperated by the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and the surge in hate incidents,” said Juliet K. Choi, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “Recognizing May 10th as National AANHPI Mental Health Awareness Day at this critical point in time creates a more equitable health care system that our communities deserve.”

Change Matrix: “Change Matrix stands together with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and is honored to support this resolution that uplifts the voices of the AANHPI community and increase awareness about the importance of their mental health and well being.”

National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF): “Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls have long faced unique challenges to our health and well-being. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began and the world noticed the harassment and violence targeting AAPI women, too little attention was paid to our communities, including our mental health. NAPAWF applauds Representative Chu’s leadership in calling attention to this important issue while working for visibility and responsive solutions. AAPI women and girls deserve quality and affordable mental health care that is language accessible tailored toward those most in need of support.”

BACKGROUND:

First spearheaded by RAMS Inc. and NAAPIMHA, May 10th has been recognized as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Mental Health Day in the State of California since 2010, but is not federally recognized yet. According to data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), AANHPIs have the lowest help-seeking rate of any racial/ethnic group, with only 23.3% of AANHPI adults with a mental illness receiving treatment in 2019. And, even though suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, it is the leading cause of death for Asian or Pacific Islander youth ages 15-24. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these problems as increased racial violence and discrimination against the Asian American community has increased the need for mental health services. 

Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland serves as a Member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She is one of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress and the first African-American to represent the Pacific Northwest at the federal level.

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Issues:Health