But Luangphaxay, of the social services group based in New York City, said there would be more meaning behind their words. Often, she told HuffPost, the seniors were going through anxiety and depression but merely weren’t sure how to vocalize it.
These elders are dealing with trauma as a result of living in war-torn countries, witnessing political upheaval or adapting to life in a foreign land.
Immigrants and refugees suffering in silence
” Our elders are often forgotten ,” Dr. Dj Ida, executive director of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, told HuffPost.” And after what many of them have been through, they deserve tolead a life with respect and dignity — particularly those who have experienced trauma. They’ve been through a lot — they’ve been through hell and back .”
A large number of senior Asian Americans deal with mental health issues, with more than 50 percentage in New York City alone expressing symptoms of loneliness or depression, according to a 2016 report. Many of those at risk for depression and suicide are immigrants and refugees, Ida explained. These elders are dealing with trauma as a result of living in war-torn countries, witnessing political upheaval or adapting to life in a foreign land.
They generally don’t say’ I’m depressed.’
Seniors who are isolated are also at risk for depression and suicide. When elderly Asian Americans lose their support systems, like a spouse, or don’t have adult children to care for them, they often find it tough to grapple with their situation, experts say.
” This can be particularly difficult for elders who were raised with the cultural expectation that their children would take care of them in their old age ,” Ida said.
Admitting you need help isn’t part of Asian culture
But get help for mental health issues isn’t so simple for these seniors. Sometimes the problem is culture: Many feel afraid their illnesses will cause them to” lose face” or bring shame to their families, according to a mental health report by Joyce P. Chu and Stanley Sue of Palo Alto University.
” Many Asian Americans tend to avoid the juvenile justice or legal system, mental health bureaux, health services, and welfare agencies, because the utilization of services for certain problems is a tacit admission of the existence of these problems and may result in public knowledge of these familial difficulties ,” the report notes.
” They generally don’t say’ I’m depressed ,'” she explained, adding that many will go to a primary care physician to explain these ailments.” They’ll address[ mental health issues] in more physical ways like,’ My stomach hurts ,” I can’t sleep .'”
The least we can do is make sure that in their senior years, they can lead a decent life.
However, even if these seniors with mental health issues want to seek help, they aren’t all able to get it. More than half of Asian Americans over 55 have limited English language proficiency, according to a report by the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging , and that speech barrier becomes a barrier to accessing services.
” Asian Americans who induce the difficult decision to initiate contact with mental health providers may be more likely to stay in therapy if they encounter these culturally-congruent aspects of the care process ,” such reports said.
Assistance doesn’t just come in the form of a mental health specialist, Ida said. It can also mean helping individuals participate in activities they enjoy, which can reduce isolation and attain them feel valuable in a way that’s culturally familiar to them.
There’s still a long way to go, and Ida says what we know about Asian-American seniors’ mental health is just the tip of the iceberg. So far, much of the available data is aggregated and doesn’t go into the unique mental health challenges among Asian subgroups. But as Asian-American mental health professionals continue to proponent for better data, Ida says, it’s important for the public to understand the situation many seniors are facing.
” The least we can do is make sure that in their senior years, they can lead a decent life .”
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