Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month by Demanding Culturally Competent Mental Health Services for AAPIs

May is both Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. As we commemorate and celebrate how Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities have continued to enrich the United States with their deep histories, resilience, and cultures, we must also actively demand for our right to thrive as well as our liberation.

Due to cultural stigma and the lack of culturally and linguistically competent mental health services, many Asian Americans live with undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders. The California Department of Health Care Services reports that in fiscal year 2016-2017, AAPI adults are the least likely racial group to access specialty mental health services even once, with just 2% of the population accessing care. Southeast Asian Americans, in particular, experience higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges, compared to the general population.

Mental Health Awareness Spotlight 

Under the current Administration, many immigrants and refugees are fearful of the consequences of holding a particular documentation status.

Silath Saopadith celebrates successfully naturalizing as a citizen through the support of FIRM’s Citizenship/Civics Program

Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM) has seen a 300-400% increasein clients seeking immigration-related services since the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2017.1 One such community member is Silath Saopadith, 55, who immigrated to the United States more than 12 years ago and has struggled to obtain his citizenship due to the lack of culturally and linguistically competent services. Mr. Saopadith shares the impact of FIRM’s multilayered culturally and linguistically competent services to support obtaining his citizenship and improving his mental health:

“When there is someone that looks like me, I am able to open up a bit more. I’ve been in the states for 12 years, and I’ve never been able to open up about my past or ask anyone for help. Before coming to FIRM, I had a high stress level, [was] afraid of deportation, [and had] language barriers, so everything was working against me. After a few years coming to FIRM, the staff was able to help me reduce those symptoms and also make me feel safe. … I come to FIRM two or three times a week for help. Without their support, I don’t know where I would be.”

Culturally and linguistically competent mental health services are lifesaving, but mental health services in California have not been doing enough to serve our SEAA community. 


Support our sponsored mental health CA bill by telling us your mental health story

SEARAC is excited to launch our SEARAC Mental Health Story Collection – California campaign to identify gaps in mental health services and help develop community-defined policy solutions for the SEAA community.
Contribute your story today on the mental health needs of the Southeast Asian American community and help us advocate for the urgent need for culturally and linguistic competent mental health services!
Your story will also help convey to California state legislators why they should support Assembly Bill 512: Cultural Competence in Mental Health and will be used to inform a larger statewide #Care4MyCulture campaign, which seeks to improve cultural competence in California’s mental health delivery system.



1. FIRM is a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides culturally and linguistically competent education, naturalization, health navigation, and mental health services to refugees of SEAA, Slavic, and African origin.