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Japanese Americans and Mental Illness Treatment

Jun 11, 2019 at History Essays

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Cultural factors including language, gender, age, race identity, and ethical codes can influence a patient’s ability to seek assistance. Asians have strict moral codes placing value on the family as a unity. Each person in the family has a role in the family, and family hierarchy is highly respected. Asian American culture is a major barrier preventing Asians from accessing mental health treatment and assistance. The Japanese comprise the second largest Asian American group. Similar to other Asian sub-groups the Japanese have deep family codes that cannot be violated. One such code is the need to maintain family secrecy and avoid any action that can potentially harm the image of the family. Social stigma and the need to protect the family image prevent Asians from seeking mental health assistance. The cultural tension and difference between the Japanese and mental health professionals from diverse ethnicities also limit their willingness to seek critical assistance. Social stigma and shame based on cultural values such as the need to protect the image of the family prevent Asian Americans from seeking assistance for mental health challenges.

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Literature Review

Asian Americans represent the fastest growing non-native group in the United States. Asian Americans’ cultural preservation is also distinct. They have been able to successfully maintain cultural values, practices, and codes against the dissolution by the American culture. However, the ability to maintain the cultural identity has a huge downturn particularly for Asians with mental health challenges. The Japanese Americans prefer to seek assistance from general health practitioners who may not be equipped to handle extreme variations in mental health challenges. The preference of general health specialists instead of mental health specialists is based on the shame and social stigma associated with receiving or being diagnosed with a mental illness (Kalibatseva). It is critical to note that the Japanese Americans have a linguistic isolation. Few mental health specialists have a Japanese identity or Asian cultural affiliations. The preference for Asian American mental health specialists and the family values prevent the Japanese from seeking critically needed mental health help (Kalibatseva). Kalibatseva notes that environmental factors such as racial discrimination, stereotypes and inability to adapt contribute to mental health challenges. The rising cases of mental health issues among the Asian American community indicate a failure to seek early treatment (Kalibatseva). Kalibatseva also notes cultural codes and beliefs as an obstacle causing depleting mental health levels in the Asian American community.

The Asian American culture emphasizes the need to maintain face and avoid personal shame or shame to the family (Kurasaki). In this case, the term Asian is inclusive of the Japanese Americans. The study by Kurasaki noted that Asian Americans were unwilling to disclose any information that would cause shame to family and self. The language and cultural difference between Asians and other ethnic therapists access to mental health services. The majority of Asian Americans only seek treatment at advanced stages of mental illnesses impacting negatively on the treatment (Kurasaki).

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Asian Americans are the fastest-growing group in the United States. The Asian American community also faces an increased prevalence of alcohol abuse, domestic violence and crime. Persons of Asian American community also face racial identity-based stigmatization and stereotypes (Kwok 288). For example, a media propagated stereotype highlights that Asians are well off financially and smart in academics. Overall, the Asian community faces a diverse range of challenges including adaptations that negatively affect their mental health (Kwok 290). However, a ten-year review of health data indicates that Asian Americans hardly utilize mental health services. Asians are twice unlikely to see psychologists compared to Native Americans. Asian Americans underutilize mental health services due to the stigma, social victimization and misconceptions of Western treatment (Kwok 291). Kwok notes that the Asian Americans community distrusts Western treatment forms, which prevents its members from seeking mental health assistance.

Overall, Kwok concludes that psychologists need an understanding of Asian American culture practices and should engage patients by targeting the known barriers. The Japanese Americans face similar challenges as other Asian American groups while seeking mental health assistance. Deeply held values of family and image prevent the Japanese Americans from seeking the critically needed assistance. The language difference between the Japanese Americans and the majority of psychologists also acts as a barrier. The language barrier means that a Japanese American patient cannot communicate effectively with the therapist. Lack of clear communication creates tension and mistrust. The language breakdown is, therefore, a contributing cultural factor hindering Japanese Americans from seeking help.

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The United States is home to estimate 15.5 million Asian Americas including Japanese Americans. Estimated 1% is students in colleges; Asian American students are perceived as the “model minority.” (Han 1) These students are associated with high academic performance and few occurrences of behavior problems and mental health challenges. However, studies contrast this notion with Asian American students suffering from distress. Asian Americans aged 15-24 years have the highest suicidal rates compared to their counterparts from other racial and ethnic groups within the same age. Researchers note that the increasing number of suicides among Asian American young people is due to their failure to seek professional services (Han 4). The research highlights that social stigmatization among the Asian communities prevents members from seeking critical mental health assistance. The research indicates that little is known about the average Asian American students as the students hardly seek assistance. In particular, Asian culture values do not allow any act that brings shame and embarrassment to self, family or community. Asian (Japanese) students, therefore, suffer in silence rather than embarrass their families before the community (Han 5). The research data syncs with previous authors arguments recognizing culture as a major barrier preventing Asian Americans from seeking mental health assistance.

Methodology

Interviews and questionnaires were used to gather information needed for the study. Participants unwilling to take interviews had an option of anonymously filling questionnaires. The questionnaires were constructed in line with the objective of the study. Questionnaire questions included: What challenges do your face based on your race and culture? How important is family and family values to you? How often have you, family member or friend seen a mental health specialist? What factors limit Asian Americans access to mental health services? What social attitudes directed by people seeking mental health treatment? Do you prefer Asian therapists or a fully competent therapists from the various and racial-ethnic groups? Do you feel isolated in your environment and or misunderstood? How often do you feel depressed, stressed and in need to talk to some? How often do your express fears and insecurities to friends or family? Two participants were approached physically and requested to take a face to face or virtual interview. The participants were assured of the confidentiality of the given information, and names were not required. The data was collected from several participants including families, leaders of Asian (Japanese) American groups and Japanese American students. Face to face interviews were conducted in public places.

The first observable fact was the unwillingness at first instance to share information or participate in the study. The majority of the interview requests were turned away with a request for privacy. However, a sufficient number of participants were willing to provide information after explanations of the objective of the study. Students were the easiest participants to engage while families were less willing to share. The majority of participants were students while Asian (Japanese) social groups helped gather the data and engage members. Overall, it was difficult to get the members to open up and share personal health data, family data or community information.

Findings

The findings of the study align with findings by the various authors discussed above. On the question on family values and practices, the entire group agreed that the family was above personal needs. Any action that would cause harm or shame to the family was highly prohibited. Respect for one's elder was also a mandatory family practice. Therefore, the elders controlled and made final decisions on the actions of the young ones. Second, the majority of the participants highlighted racial discrimination, language difference and stereotypes as major challenges they faced. Many immigrant students admitted being stressed by the environmental change. None of the students admitted to talking to a professional about the cultural and environmental distress. The immigrants noted that the change of environment affected their social lives and had to learn English to fit the environment.

A key factor noted in the interviews was that Asian (Japanese) Americans hardly seek mental health assistance. Just a few students admitted having visited a mental health specialist. Participants that admitted visiting a mental health specialist noted that the specialist was recommended by a family member or a friend. The students also noted that they felt more comfortable talking to a mental health professional of Asian origin. Majority noted that the choice of the therapist was based on the notion that a non-Asian therapist would not understand the difficulties and challenges faced by an Asian American student. The students admitted that rarely their family members and friends seek mental health assistance. The majority noted that challenges experienced were handled within the family. External assistance was only sought in rare moments and with permission from family heads.

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In the interview, the participants were requested to highlight factors that may limit the willingness of an Asian American to seek mental health assistance. The interview with the Asian American community and social groups indicated that there was a shortage of Asian American therapists. The majority of the patients under the social group’s services also request Asian American therapists. The majority of the persons seeking assistance were unwilling to engage non-Asian therapists. The reason for the tension includes a shortage of cultural competent counselors and cultural mistrust. The majority of the participants, mainly Japanese American immigrants, indicated that they felt safer in the hands of an Asian American therapist. Asian Americans community members distrust Western forms of treatment and prevent its members from seeking mental health assistance (Kwok 290).

The majority of the students in the study admitted feeling isolated and struggling to fit their surrounding environment. The environmental conflict was a result of cultural difference and socially accepted Asian Americans stereotypes. For example, the majority of students admitted feeling under pressure from family and community to achieve high academic performances. Family honor and pride contributed to the distress, a majority of students were fearful of embarrassing their families by not achieving excellent academic performances. However, only a few of the students had seen a mental health specialist to seek assistance. Seeking family help was not a viable option since complaints are interpreted as “weakness” while cultural beliefs require young people to show strength and determination.

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All participants noted that the society was less accepting of members seeking mental health services. The members were treated with distrust, suspicion and felt isolated by the community. Overall, it is correct to say that the Asian (Japanese) American culture prevents members from seeking mental health assistance. Culture has a powerful effect on the decisions made by Asian (Japanese) Americans. Fear of social stigma associated with admitting to mental health challenges prevents affected members from seeking mental assistance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Japanese and other Asian Americans seeking mental health assistance have to adapt or go through social stigma. Asian Americans face a variety of challenges including social stereotypes, racial discrimination, social pressures, environmental stresses and cultural crash. However, few Japanese or Asian Americans seek assistance due to fear of social stigma associated with disclosing such sensitive information. Further research is necessary to recognize measures that can be put in place to protect Japanese Americans from social stigma based on cultural beliefs. Studies must also be conducted to understand and offer recommendations for Asian American immigrants to fit into the American environment. Asian American cultural values and practices uphold the idea of public image and prevent members from any act that causes shame. Members are also expected to guard family secrets and respect decisions made by their elders. The majority of Asian Americans who seek mental health treatment are treated with mistrust and suspicion by family members. However, insufficient research has been conducted to address the issue of family image and the unwillingness of Japanese (Asian) Americans to seek mental health assistance. Little research exists that explores the impact of family norms among the Asian American communities. Research and studies into the Asian American families are critical to solving social stigma faced by Japanese Americans seeking mental health treatment. Overall, the family seems to be a powerful factor affecting member’s willingness to seek mental health assistance. Therefore, research and engagement programs must focus on family as a variable influencing the behavior of respective members of the Asian community.

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