Panel Event: “Asian Americans and Mental Health”


Panelists (from left):  Agnes, Dr. Chao, Dr. Cheung, Dr. Leung, and Dr. Pham.  Moderator: Bo Kim
Panelists (from left): Ms. Ho, Dr. Chao, Dr. Cheung, Dr. Leung, and Dr. Pham.
Moderator: Bo Kim

On February 17, APASA co-hosted a panel on “Asian Americans and Mental Health” with Active Minds, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health on campus. We were honored to have the following panelists share their experiences and expertise:
Dr. Stephen Chao, MD (Rice ’02 Alum, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine)
Dr. Tony Pham, MD, PhD (Rice ’86 and BCM ’93 Alum, Board-Certified Psychiatrist)
Agnes Ho, LMSW (Associate Director, Student Wellbeing Office)
Dr. Patrick Leung, PhD, MSW, MA (Professor at UH Graduate College of Social Work, former President & Co-Founder of Asian American Family Services)
Dr. Monit Cheung, PhD, MSW, MA, LCSW (Professor at UH Graduate College of Social Work)

The panel covered a wide variety of topics, from the attitudes APIAs hold towards mental health to measures every individual can take to deal with mental health issues. A priceless highlight of the night was when Dr. Stephen Chao began rapping Magnetic North’s “Price of Perfection.”

A reception was held afterwards for students to engage more with the panelists.
A reception was held afterwards to allow students to engage more with the panelists.

A common point made throughout the panel was that, in trying to avoid the social stigma associated with mental health issues, APIAs tend to deny the necessity of mental health treatment, even going so far as to refuse a simple assessment. Agnes Ho and Dr. Tony Pham offered the reminder that mental illness is a medical problem — it does not make you a weak or bad person — and that seeking help is a sign of strength, while Dr. Monit Cheung stressed the importance of acknowledging the presence of any mental health problems firsthand. However, due to the stigma attached to mental illness, APIAs often avoid seeking help in order to save face, which is extremely crucial in many APIA cultures. The first step toward resolving the stigma is to simply start talking about it, via awareness campaigns, writing, or even everyday conversations, according to Dr. Chao. Meanwhile, there are also several ways to treat mental illness without going to a therapist, such as acupuncture, reading, and deep sea fishing (Dr. Patrick Leung’s personal favorite)–essentially, activities from which we individually can obtain joy. Relieving emotions through poetry, music, and other forms of creativity can also be therapeutic, as Dr. Chao testified with his Magnetic North rap.

Coming from different areas of expertise (primary care, psychology, psychiatry, research, and social work), each panelist offered a unique perspective that built off each other’s and together contributed to a rich and thriving conversation throughout the event. We hope that everyone who attended the event took away something valuable!


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