As in many Asian homes, mental health wasn’t spoken about within the walls of my childhood house. Yet mental distress was certainly part of the structure’s foundation. Suffering in silence was almost a tacit badge of honor – this is how hard we work, these are the pains we’ve overcome… and we’ve done it for you. How could you argue with that? Objectively, our lives were so much better than the previous generations – I mean, we have toilet paper. That alone is a game changer. Yet then why was I struggling? For the model minority, the model seemed to be a mannequin that had all the right proportions but seemed void of key vital components.
As I studied clinical psychology in undergrad, and then public health in graduate school, I slowly became educated on the complexities of mental health within the Asian American community. In fact, prevalence rates for anxiety and depression were higher for this demographic across the board; sadly, the problem was exacerbated by low utilization rates for any type of wellness support within the demographic.
Here are some quick stats to help explain the situation:
- 36% of Asian Americans experience depressive symptoms (PLoS One, Kim et, al) – it’s really common.
- 9% of Asian Americans use mental health services compared to 18% in the general public (He, Shuo. George Washington University) – it’s largely untreated.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Asians, ages 15 – 34 (American Psychological Association) – we’re seeing too many avoidable deaths.
The truth is that many Asians are struggling to be happy. South Asians face economic and language barriers that prevent them from accessing health care, thereby making them more vulnerable to advanced depression and other mental health disorders (SAMHIN).
Many face many mental health stressors, from balancing traditional values with Western culture, immigration, academic / professional expectations, cultural taboos associated with mental health, and family/marital pressures. Within this community, past generations continue to believe that mental health issues are not relevant or “real” and therefore, are not prioritized or managed properly. The issue truly lies within the lack of self-acceptance, and breaking the stigma.
Helping our community members navigate the complexities of being human seemed like a daunting task. After graduating from an MBA program focused on social entrepreneurship, I decided to co-found an organization called The Sukhi Project; it’s aimed at increasing access to culturally proficient care while reducing the stigma of seeking connection. My team believes in more than simply a technical solution; rather, we want to build a growing movement of wellness, and use technology when relevant.
We plan to do this by increasing access to support services within our minority community, first focusing on the Asian community. Our solution spans 3 C’s:
- Connection through culturally sensitive matchmaking to providers.
- Community online and offline groups.
- Curated content via meditation podcasts, articles, etc.
Sukhi translates to happiness in Sanskrit; we plan to promote just that. We launched a platform in March; resources can be accessed at TheSukhiProject.com, as well as through all our social media handles (@thesukhiproject). We invite you to help us grow a platform aimed at helping our parents, friends, and future generations – so their childhood homes can be built on foundations of support, harmony, and open communication.
Rahul co-founded Sukhi as a reaction to the hurt he saw in his his close friends and family. He hopes the platform will help minority communities access culturally tailored support. Prior to Sukhi, Rahul was a strategy consultant for McKinsey, a global health official (UN World Food Program, USAID) and a wide-eyed rock guitarist. When not making PowerPoint slides, you can find him dancing salsa through Latin America, writing soul music and finding balance on yoga mats in over 50 countries. He seemed to be quite fond of Boston academics – he has an MBA from MIT, an MPH from Tufts Medical, and has studied clinical psychology at Tufts for his undergraduate degree.