Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2024: Highlighting Therapists, Resources and More

Published May 1, 2024 by Zencare Team

Therapist Antonia Derramas shared with Zencare that her cultural background directly contributed to her passion for helping others: “There is a word in my language and that is kapwa. It means unity of self and others. It's like that saying, ‘it takes a village.’ Healing truly takes a village. Healing is not meant to be done alone... Just like what my ancestors have taught me, you need your community to thrive."

A person’s culture hugely impacts their life experience, from influencing their family dynamics to directing their perspectives on health and well-being. This Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we’re celebrating our AAPI clients and therapists and sharing AAPI mental health resources to promote healthy living across this remarkable community.

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What is AAPI Heritage Month?

AAPI Heritage Month occurs in May each year. The significance of the month of May for this heritage month comes from two historical American events: the arrival of the first immigrants from Japan and separately the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which drew to the country thousands of immigrants from China. It’s a month dedicated to acknowledging the AAPI community’s contributions in politics, social justice, sports, media, research, arts, and more. It’s also a time for AAPI individuals to celebrate their culture and to feel proud of their backgrounds.

AAPI Heritage Week was first officially recognized in 1978 after 10 years of advocacy from AAPI lawmakers. In 1990, the designated week got stretched into an entire month, with AAPI Heritage Month’s inauguration. This month celebrates people whose cultural background comes from across the Asian continent as well as the Pacific Islands like Hawaii, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

AAPI Heritage Month and Mental Health

With anti-Asian sentiment rampant across the country over the past several years, taking a month to celebrate the AAPI community is needed now more than ever. The horrible string of attacks on Asian Americans as well as continued discourse around colonialization, racial justice, and diversity tamper many individuals’ mental health. Yet, AAPI individuals commonly face cultural stigma against accessing mental health services, which may lead to exacerbated mental health challenges.

That said, there’s hope in our future. According to therapist Krista Yapp, “There can be stigma and shame towards mental health therapy within the AAPI community. However, with time and research I can see a shift in the AAPI community to having a more diverse perspective on mental health therapy.”

This AAPI Heritage Month, we’re supporting AAPI individuals across the country to find the perfect therapist to support them through their mental health challenges, and we’re celebrating our AAPI therapists who endlessly provide care for their clients.

Celebrating our AAPI Therapists

“Part of my AAPI identity also means healing my family’s generational trauma and honoring their bravery. With this, I am doing the best I can to pay it forward and support others in this community,” says therapist Natasha Kumar in response to how her AAPI identity means to her as a mental health clinician.

Therapists who identify as AAPI understand the cultural nuances of living in two cultures, which can strengthen their relationships with their AAPI clients and help them provide empathetic, actionable guidance in sessions. Natasha Kumar continues, “As an individual navigating biculturalism, I can understand and support individuals in therapy who are also navigating two different cultures.”

Therapist Rakhi Sen believes that therapy must be centered around each client’s unique culture and background. She says, “To be meaningful, therapy interventions need to be congruent with each individual's own worldview and must work within their specific context.” In her practice, she uses her own cultural background as common ground to help her AAPI clients and support them through their mental health challenges. She cherishes her AAPI identity, sharing, “Uniquely, I love the wealth of mythology in the Indian (specifically Hindu) culture that has taught me so much about my culture as well as the general human experience. It has also given me an interest in the stories and histories of cultures other than my own. I love the flexibility it gives me to relate to people from different identities, cultures, and backgrounds.”

AAPI Heritage Month Resources

To support learning about AAPI Heritage Month as well as the AAPI experience, you can find a collection of educational media relating to the AAPI community through the Library of Congress. The American Archive of Public Broadcasting also offers free access to The Center for Asian American Media, a curated space filled with documentaries about AAPI heritage. The History Channel also offers accessible information about AAPI Heritage Month with links to related articles and videos for further learning.

AAPI Mental Health Resources

Mental Health America provides general information and resources relating to mental health topics for the AAPI community, including the definition of the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype and a list of some cultural aspects that lead to mental health challenges for this community. Similarly, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) offers information on AAPI mental health, including information on culturally competent care.

The Asian American Psychological Association is a great online resource that provides visitors with research-backed fact sheets, such as Intimate Partner Violence among Asian American and Pacific Islander Women and Asian American Bullying. The website also includes a collection of AAPI LGBTQ resources for the public as well as therapists.

If you’re looking for a resource library or organization directory, the Asian Mental Health Collective has a robust library where you can explore more organizations and hotlines that raise awareness about mental health and support the Asian community. The South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network aims to address a broad range of mental health needs of the growing south Asian communities in the US. Connect with an organization like the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance to find your LGBTQ+ community and allies.

Lastly, the Zencare therapist directory can also filter therapists in your area by Identity, including Asian American and Provider of Color. It’s important for many therapy seekers to work with someone that understands the intricacies of culture, and for AAPI therapy seekers, it can make a world of difference for their therapy journey if their therapist is also a member of the AAPI community.