US Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act to curb mental health stigma in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
This introduction marks the first time that the legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA).
“Economic, cultural, and language barriers prevent too many members of the AANHPI community from accessing critical mental health care,” said Sen. Hirono in a news release. “Establishing a community-informed national outreach and education strategy is critical to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care in AANHPI communities.”
“As AANHPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month come to a close, I am glad to join Representatives Chu and Napolitano in introducing this bill to help more members of our community access culturally-competent mental health care,” Hirono said.
According to data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, members of the AANHPI community have the lowest rates of mental health service utilization of any racial/ethnic group, with only 25% of Asian adults with a mental health problem receiving treatment in 2021.
In 2021, an estimated 77% of the AANHPI community, who met criteria for a mental health problem, did not receive necessary treatment.
According to the data, even though suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, it is the leading cause of death for AANHPI youth ages 10 to 24. Notably, they are the only racial or ethnic group in this age category whose leading cause of death is suicide.
If signed into law, this legislation would instruct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to:
- Provide outreach and education strategies for the AANHPI community by partnering with local advocacy and behavioral health organizations that have an established record of serving AANHPI communities and ensure these strategies reduce stigma associated with mental health conditions and substance abuse.
- Conduct research and collect disaggregated data on the state of mental health among AANHPI youth and AANHPI providers within the behavioral health workforce.
“The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, NAAPIMHA, is in strong support of the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act,” said Dr. DJ Ida, executive director of The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association. “This bill provides critical investments towards reducing stigma associated with mental health within Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander communities.”
“We are hopeful this bill will improve mental health outcomes through much needed cultural and linguistically appropriate outreach education and mental health services, workforce development, and research with and for AANHPI communities, ” Dr. Ida said.
In addition to Senator Hirono, the Senate bill was also cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
“Papa Ola Lokahi appreciates all efforts to decrease mental health stigma, which is prevalent in our communities, and is grateful that Congress recognizes the importance of culturally resonant service provision for Native Hawaiians,” said Dr. Sheri Daniels, CEO of Papa Ola Lokahi.
The full text of the bill is available here.