We have seen rising rates in anxiety and depression amongst teenagers in the last several years. Teens face a number of challenges simultaneously – their bodies are changing, they are balancing high school classes and extracurriculars, and they are trying to figure out their identities. It has become increasingly difficult for teens to navigate their lives, given the tumultuous times of the pandemic and the pressures of comparison on social media. Teens in an ethnic minority group can face even greater pressures and challenges. In this blog, we’ll discuss five different mental health challenges Asian American teens are facing.
1) Digital Natives
Like many of their peers, Asian American teens can find themselves firmly rooted in the digital landscape. Teens have more access to information than ever before and can be connected to people around the world. While this can be a wonderful opportunity for them to feel part of the global community and learn about others, Asian American teens can find that they grapple with what it means to be Asian and American when cultural portrayals vary so widely online. They may also run into very narrow definitions of what it means to be part of their ethnic group, and they may struggle to forge an authentic identity when social media shows only a shallow understanding of different cultures. Parents and therapists must be aware of the potentially significant impact of the ever-evolving digital world.
2) Model Minority Myth and Expectations
Asian American teens often confront the burdensome pressures associated with the model minority myth—a stereotype that assumes academic excellence, strict rule-following, and a soft presence that will keep their heads down. The model minority myth sets up unreasonable expectations and ignores the diversity of experiences across the Asian diaspora. It can act as a barrier to teens needing academic support, and it can make it more difficult for teens to speak up about their unique situations. It can also make it challenging for teens to build relationships with peers, who might have pre-existing assumptions about them. Parents can help their teens by supporting them in accessing necessary resources, and therapists can create a safe space for candid conversations about navigating familial and societal expectations.
3) Mental Health Stigma
Within Asian American families, cultural beliefs and values can wield significant influence over perceptions of mental health. Emotions are often not discussed, and issues with mental health are often regarded as a taboo subject. If teens share that they are struggling to meet responsibilities or fight negative thoughts, parents may assume that they are being lazy or that they are not trying hard enough. They might not think of mental health as a pertinent issue, given both stigma and general lack of knowledge. Asian American teens can also be underdiagnosed for mental health issues because many teachers and healthcare professionals can miss their more subtle symptoms. Asian American therapists can be particularly supportive in this context. They can understand and navigate these cultural barriers as they work collaboratively with families to support teens’ mental health.
4) Identity and Acculturation Stress
Asian American teens must navigate multicultural identities, balancing their Asian heritage and the American culture they live in. This acculturation process, or adapting to the dominant culture around you, can be particularly challenging depending on when they and their families immigrated to the U.S. Grandparents and parents may still hold tightly to their Asian heritage, culture, and language, while teens and children may feel the stress of trying to stay connected with their families while simultaneously trying to find connection with their peers.
For example, Asian American teens might feel they’re not Asian enough compared to their peers born and raised in Asia, and not American enough compared to their non-Asian peers here in the U.S. Parents may also struggle with their teens’ identity conflicts, as they may want their children to remain closer to their heritage but also need their assistance with navigating American systems. Therapy can help teens by providing a space to explore and integrate their multifaceted identities, and find self-acceptance.
5) Intersections of Racism and Mental Health
The realities of racism and discrimination can cast a significant shadow on the mental well-being of Asian American teens. They can experience microaggressions from their peers, and they can find themselves fighting stereotypes about who they are and how they are expected to be. With the rise of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic, they also witnessed outright discrimination towards their communities (or experienced it themselves). It can be difficult for teens and parents to navigate these experiences of racism, as some teens may want to fight the injustice while parents may be afraid for their safety and want them to keep their heads down. Therapists can help teens reckon with the conflicting emotions they may feel by giving them an open space to discuss their experiences and equipping them with strategies to cope with a situation that will be slow to change.
By understanding the unique mental health challenges that Asian American teens are facing, we will be able to provide the support that will benefit them most. Parents can work with their teens to navigate their digital lives, challenge mental health stigma, and find a way forward when facing racism and discrimination. Parents can also help their teens access mental health support, as a therapist can provide a space where they can openly discuss their identities and their personal experiences. Asian American therapists can work with your teen to create individualized goals to support their mental health and empower them.
Begin Working With an Asian American Teen Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY
At Yellow Chair Collective, our Asian American therapists specialize in culturally sensitive therapy and are dedicated to meeting the unique needs of Asian American teens, ensuring they receive the compassionate support necessary for their well-being. Therapists can help teens process all of the difficult feelings in this complicated chapter of their lives, and navigate the unique factors they are experiencing. Every teen deserves to feel heard, understood, and supported and to feel confident as they grow into adulthood. To get started with individual therapy sessions at our Los Angeles-based therapy practice, follow the steps below.
- Fill out the contact form to get connected with us.
- Get matched with a skilled Asian American therapist.
- Process the challenges of being a teen and start feeling more confident
Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective
There are many options for treatment using online therapy in California and New York, it just depends on what you’re needing. And while we certainly service Asian American folks, we also work with individuals from other cultures, too. So, whether you need support in overcoming anxiety, burnout, trauma, or PTSD, we can help. Likewise, we serve teens and couples in need of support, too. So when you start online therapy with us, you can bring your whole self, including past struggles, cultural impacts, and more.