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AARP: How COVID-19 exposed an Asian American mental health crisis

By The SATimes News Service

As the number of Coronavirus cases continue to rise at an alarming rate, another pandemic endangering the lives and the dignity of Asian Americans across generations is taking place — a mental health crisis.

Recently, AARP collaborated with Asian American experts and community members to create a video featuring stories of COVID-19 survivors facing trauma, and older adults facing anxiety in the midst of high unemployment rates. These stories help us better understand the health disparity (gap) and the shortcomings of past mental health initiatives for Asian Americans.

Some quotes from the video show how serious this situation is for our community:

“When they told me a few days into my hospitalization that I needed to be put on a ventilator, I was really terrified. I was worried whether I would ever see my family again.”

– David Lat, COVID-19 Survivor, Journalist, and Founder, Above The Law

“I’m very concerned about the mental well-being and health of older Asian Americans right now, as they’re coping with multiple sources of stress, including the pandemic, social isolation, and unemployment.” 

– Dr. Usha Tummala-Narra, Professor, Counseling Developmental and Educational Psychology, Boston College

Key statistics to note:

  1. Over ⅓ of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety and depression, according to census data gathered in 2020 on Measuring Household Experiences during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
  2. Only 4% of mental healthcare workers in the U.S. identify as Asian, as shared by the American Psychological Association (APA) data set on Demographics of the U.S. Psychology Workforce.
  3. Communities of color are less likely to seek and receive treatment for mental health. Asian American are the least likely, according to 2015 data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use Among Adults.

For many Asian Americans, treatment for mental health is unaffordable, especially for those who don’t have health insurance. An AARP study found that, nationwide, 20% of Asian American adults aged 50 to 64 do not have health insurance.

We urgently need to uncover pathways and solutions to address the mental health needs of Asian Americans and ultimately, create a more equitable world after COVID-19.

To view the full video, please visit and for more resources or articles, please visit


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