Racism in US piles up pressures on Asians

People holding signs take part in a Stop Asian Hate rally in San Jose, California, the United States, April 25, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Asian Americans who have experienced racism are more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic itself and have suffered heightened signs of depression, anxiety, stress, and physical symptoms, a new report said.

The Stop AAPI Hate survey found that discrimination was Asian Americans' greatest source of stress, much higher than concerns over the pandemic

The Stop AAPI Hate Mental Health Report features findings from three research projects that investigated the effects of anti-Asian racism on the mental health of Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports are the Stop AAPI Hate Follow-Up Survey, the National Anti-Asian American Racism Study, and the COVID-19 Adult Resilience Experiences Study.

The Stop AAPI Hate survey found that discrimination was Asian Americans' greatest source of stress, much higher than concerns over the pandemic. The survey also showed 95.3 percent of respondents view the US as more dangerous for them.

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"It's a really scary statistic," said Russel Jeung, co-founder of the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center. "They, overwhelmingly, were more concerned about racism than they were concerned about the pandemic that's killed (almost) 600,000 people in the US."

"They (the respondents) say: you can protect yourself from the COVID by covering your face with a mask, but you can't protect yourself from some random stranger who may attack you or attack your elderly grandmother," he said.

The survey was conducted from January to March with 413 individuals who reported racist incidents to the platform last year.

The Asian American Psychological Association, in collaboration with the Stop AAPI Hate group, conducted a parallel national needs assessment study of 3,736 Asian Americans as the comparison group from January to April.

The national needs assessment survey found 34.3 percent of participants cited anti-Asian racism as their greatest source of stress, and 75.2 percent also viewed the US as more dangerous for Asian Americans. Both numbers were much lower than what the Stop AAPI Hate survey found.

The report found though that one in five Asian Americans who have experienced racism display "racial trauma", the psychological and emotional harm caused by racism.

Experience of racism during COVID-19 is found to be more strongly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, symptoms, said the COVID-19 Adult Resilience Experiences Study, which recruited 1,002 adults in the US aged between 18 and 30 from April to June last year.

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PTSD on the rise

One in three Asian and Asian American young adults reported clinically elevated symptoms of depression and general anxiety, and one in four reported a PTSD diagnosis, said the study's data drawn from 211 participants who self-identified as Asian or Asian American.

The study found the rates are higher than pre-COVID-19 mental health estimates. Before the pandemic, Asian Americans, particularly immigrants and those with lower English proficiency, often had trouble accessing mental healthcare due to structural and linguistic barriers.

The persistent damaging stereotypes of Asian Americans´╝Źsuch as the model minority stereotype´╝Źcontribute to misconceptions about Asian Americans' mental health status and needs, the Stop AAPI Hate Mental Health Report said.