Asian & Latinx Therapists Discuss Collective Trauma, Immigration, and Mental Health Within Their Communities
My dad would say, “If you have problems, talk to me. You don’t need to see a therapist.” That’s pretty common in immigrant communities, that all the problems stay in the house – don’t air your dirty laundry.
Daisy Jessick, MSW
In both Asian & Latinx communities, mental health can still be a heavily stigmatized topic.
According to a 2015 report by SAMHSA, Asian, and Hispanic/Latinx people were consistently the 2 lowest groups to access any mental health services1. There is not only significant stigma within these communities in regard to mental health. There are also significant barriers to accessing services, resulting in these communities remaining underserved.
In honor of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, we invited our therapists to share their stories of growing up within their communities, and now giving back and serving their communities as mental health professionals. It is so important and so meaningful that we are able to serve our own communities. By doing so, we are able to appreciate our strengths and our inherent resilience amidst the stories of hardship and trauma.
A common theme that emerged in our conversation was the minimizing and normalizing of the different types of trauma that happen in each community.
“For them, [trauma] means something way worse… that really disconnects them from feeling how much it hurts,” Angelica Sun shares. “I see that in my own family too – ‘everybody goes through this…’ people who do talk about it get labeled as weak, or that there’s something wrong with you. You’re not playing your part in the family, you’re not being strong enough to support everybody else.” While this minimizing can feel very dismissing, it is the way that many of our grandparents and parents learned to survive in immensely difficult circumstances.
Another theme that emerged is the unique yet shared experience of growing up as an immigrant or with immigrant parents.
Oftentimes, it is a scary, uncomfortable experience for both the parents (who moved to another country where they did not know the dominant culture or language) and the children (who are also learning how to interact with society).
I think one of the biggest differences I recognize [as an immigrant] is the level of safety – how safe do I feel here? I remember almost having a panic attack, because I didn’t know what the right social norm was to talk to my neighbor… I didn’t know how to be.
Angelica Sun, LMFT
This lack of safety can lead to many children, especially American-born children, inadvertently becoming a provider of that safety for their immigrant parents. This dynamic can make a parent dependent on their child, and put their child in a role where they are taking on responsibilities that are beyond what their peers take on. Our therapists Connie Yang & Daisy Jessick shared that they both have had to act as translators and mediators for their parents, helping them navigate American society and coaching them to find more independence even as they grew with them.
“I had a client whose father passed away, and the doctors told her first. She had to relay that message to her [non-English speaking] mom. It was horrible hearing this, working through her trauma and that this was part of her narrative.”
Lauren Garcia, LCSW
Narratives like this one are not uncommon amongst Asian and Latinx families. Many have had to reckon with themes of responsibility, and with the differences between their collectivist, family-focused cultures and the individualist, independence-based American culture.
To hear more about these shared themes and experiences, listen below!
Begin Working With A Trauma Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY
Coping with past trauma can take time. Our team of caring therapists would be happy to support you in navigating the unique experiences of immigrants and the challenges they may face. We are happy to offer support across California and New York. To get started with our Yellow Chair Collective, follow the steps below:
- Request an appointment using the prompt below or our contact form.
- Begin meeting with a trained therapist.
- Start processing past trauma today!
Other Services Offered With Yellow Chair Collective
The therapists at our Los Angeles and New York City-based counseling center are competent in various areas in addition to trauma. They work with teens, individuals, and couples. They can address issues such as anxiety, postpartum therapy, and ADHD. Additionally, they can provide culturally sensitive treatment for highly sensitive people, burnout, workshops for organizations, and EMDR. All of these services can be utilized in-person or online anywhere in California or New York.
1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use among Adults. HHS Publication No. SMA-15-4906. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015.