Reps. Chu, Napolitano Joined by Sen. Hirono in First Bicameral Introduction of the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act

During AANHPI Heritage Month, Reps. Chu, Napolitano Joined by Sen. Hirono in First Bicameral Introduction of the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Reps. Judy Chu (CA-28) and Grace Napolitano (CA-31) were joined by Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) to announce the first bicameral introduction of the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act, which would curb mental health stigma in the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community.

According to data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), AANHPIs have the lowest rates of mental health service utilization of any racial/ethnic group, with only 25 percent of Asian adults with a mental health problem receiving treatment in 2021. In 2021, an estimated 77 percent of the AANHPIs who met criteria for a mental health problem did not receive necessary treatment. And, even though suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States, it is the leading cause of death for AANHPI youth ages 10 to 24, and they are the only racial or ethnic group in this age category whose leading cause of death is suicide.

Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), Congressional District 27 at the press conference. Photo by Keyang Pang

“The AANHPI community in this country has faced a growing mental health crisis in recent years, including increasing deaths by suicide of AANHPI youth,” said Rep. Chu. “As the only psychologist currently serving in Congress, I know how critical it is to remove the barriers attached to seeking mental health care as well as reduce the stigma and raise awareness of mental health issues. This year during AANHPI Heritage Month, I am honored to lead this bill with Rep. Napolitano again in the House and be joined by Sen. Hirono to lead the first-ever Senate companion.”

If signed into law, this legislation would instruct SAMHSA to (1) provide outreach and education strategies for the AANHPI community by partnering with local advocacy and behavioral health organizations that have an established record of serving AANHPIs and ensures these strategies reduce stigma associated with mental health conditions and substance abuse; and (2) conduct research and collect disaggregated data on the state of mental health among AANHPI youth and AANHPI providers within the behavioral health workforce.

“This bill will address the mental health stigma and disparities within the AANHPI community by providing funding for culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education,” continued Rep. Chu, “as well as requiring research with disaggregated data so we can better understand and confront the unique problems faced by all the diverse subgroups within our community.”

“Economic, cultural, and language barriers prevent too many members of the AANHPI community from accessing critical mental health care,” said Senator Hirono. “Establishing a community-informed national outreach and education strategy is critical to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care in AANHPI communities. As AANHPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month come to a close, I am glad to join Representatives Chu and Napolitano in introducing this bill to help more members of our community access culturally-competent mental health care.”

“For far too long mental health has been a taboo topic of discussion among families, especially within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community,” Congresswoman Napolitano said. “Together, we can overcome this fear, shame, and stigma with more outreach, education, and open dialogue, enforcing our message that it is always okay to ask for help. I am very proud to again partner with Congresswoman Chu to raise the visibility and awareness of the needs of the AANHPI community at home in our San Gabriel Valley and across the U.S., as we continue to bridge gaps in access to and availability of life-saving mental health services for all Asian Americans.”

The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, NAAPIMHA, is in strong support of the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act,” said Dr. DJ Ida, Executive Director of NAAPIMHA. “This bill provides critical investments towards reducing stigma associated with mental health within Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander communities. We are hopeful this bill will improve mental health outcomes through much needed cultural and linguistically appropriate outreach education and mental health services, workforce development, and research with and for AANHPI communities.”

“The Stop Mental Health Stigma in our Communities Act is critical to ending the stigma in seeking care for one’s health and well-being. As all communities, including AANHPIs, are still reeling from the devastating impact of COVID-19 – and senseless incidences of gun violence, it is paramount to ensure culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health resources and community supports are readily available for families and communities,” said Juliet K. Choi, President & CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF).

“We applaud Representative Chu and Senator Hirono for bringing attention to the need to improve access to mental health care for the AAPI community,” said Hannah Wesolowski, Chief Advocacy Officer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “Stop Mental Health Stigma in our Communities Act will help address stigma and other systemic barriers to accessing mental health care and NAMI proudly supports this bill.”

“Papa Ola Lokahi appreciates all efforts to decrease mental health stigma, which is prevalent in our communities, and is grateful that Congress recognizes the importance of culturally resonant service provision for Native Hawaiians,” said Dr. Sheri Daniels, CEO of Papa Ola Lokahi.

Click here to read the bill in full.

At present, at least 58 organizations have endorsed the legislation, including:

  • AAPI Amplified
  • AAPI Democratic Caucus of Nevada
  • AAPI Equity Alliance
  • AAPI Montclair
  • AAPI Youth Rising
  • Anise Health
  • API Equality-LA
  • Arizona Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander for Equity
  • Arkansans United
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
  • Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF)
  • Asian Counseling and Referral Service
  • Asian Girls Ignite
  • Asian Mental Health Collective
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AFL-CIO)
  • Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)
  • Asian Youth Act
  • Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
  • Can’t Stop! Won’t Stop! Consulting
  • Can’t Stop! Won’t Stop! Education Fund
  • Center for Innovation in Mental Health, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health
  • Change Matrix
  • College of San Mateo AANAPISI Program
  • Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC)
  • Filipino Mental Health of Initiative – Hawai’i
  • Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO)
  • Hawaii Public Health Association
  • Istorya
  • Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)
  • Koreatown Youth & Community Center
  • Little Tokyo Service Center
  • Mabuhay, Inc.
  • Mental Health America
  • Mental Health America of Hawai`i
  • Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA)
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)
  • National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA)
  • National Council for Mental Wellbeing
  • National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
  • National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)
  • National Organization of API Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV)
  • OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
  • Papa Ola Lokahi
  • Philippine Nurses Association of Metropolitan DC
  • Philippine Village Historical Site
  • Saahas for Cause
  • Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus
  • Sakura Foundation
  • SEIU 503-Asian Desi Pacific Islander (ADPI) Caucus
  • SHK Global Health
  • South Asian Public Health Association
  • Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
  • The Asian American Foundation (TAAF)
  • The Cambodian Family Community Center
  • United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance – WA (UTOPIA Washington)