9. Addressing Mental Health More Openly.
Asian and Asian Americans share in the human experience with similar statistics of those who struggle with mental health. And additional factors make it even worse, like anti-Asian hate incidents, racism, and shame-based cultural pressures. In fact, Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services than Whites and Asian American young adults are the only racial group with suicide as their leading cause of death.
Asian and Asian American pastors know that they’re often the first place people turn for help, especially for struggles like mental health. But pastors already have many other responsibilities and only limited time for pastoral counseling. And, unfortunately, some churches are not safe places for people to share their struggles, because those churches mistakenly deny the reality of mental health struggles and reject the efficacy of psychology and psychiatry.
Asian American churches have the greatest potential and opportunity to serve this most pressing felt need. This will require more education, raising awareness for existing resources, and training for support groups. That is the very thing that churches can provide that therapy and medication cannot: a caring community and the power of prayer.
One survey noted that only 12.5% of church leaders say mental illness is discussed openly and in a healthy way in their church. And if the topic of mental health is difficult to address in mainstream American churches, it’s probably next to impossible to address in an Asian American church.
But there’s a few signs that’s changing. I have seen dozens of next generation Asian American churches speaking about mental health in their weekend sermons. Plus, I got to chat with Rev. Dr. Victor Chayasirisobhon (Pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim and 1st Vice President of the SBC Convention) and learned he had recently finished a Christian counseling degree.
Enlighten Mental Health Ministry was started through the vision of Chinese Christian Church of Thousand Oaks, where the first event was hosted in Ventura County, California, that addressed mental health in a Christian context. It continues to provide workshops, support groups, and other resources.
Mustard Seed Generation is raising the level of mental health awareness in the Korean American community through conferences, workshops, and trainings in Korean and English.
It’s also commendable that Asian American Christian Counseling Service (AACCS) had provided subsidized Christian counseling for 35 years in Southern California.
At the risk of being premature in sharing this, I’m personally working on something to increase the capacity of Asian American churches to be a safe haven for those who struggle with mental health.
This is not just a personal project, but a personal calling. I have had to manage my own mood disorder for over 20 years now. By God’s grace, I’ve been able to do the hard work of self-care and receive the support of loving family and friends.
I’m praying for partners and collaborators to bring about more Christian Asian mental health. I’d love to have you join me in prayer and start a conversation to create the future that blesses God and His people.