Hate Crimes Are Creating a Mental Health Crisis Among Asian Americans

In March of this year, a man went on a killing spree across three spas in Atlanta, Georgia, killing eight people. Six of them were Asian American women, and the police suspect the motivations of the killer were related to sexual desire. However, the city’s mayor kept the focus on the victims.

“Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian,” Keisha Lance Bottoms said. “We also know that this is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”

According to a Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism report, hate crimes against the Asian American community grew 149% last year. This has happened against a backdrop of overall reduction in hate crimes in the U.S. meaning that racism against Asian Americans in particular is rising in the country. This can be linked with the xenophobia Asian Americans had to face during the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The combination of xenophobia and rise in hate crimes has resulted in the deterioration of the mental health among Asian Americans. It has also coincided with Donald Trump’s presidency, who, according to the United Nations, helped legitimize hate against the community.

A paper from June last year titled “The Anxiety of Being Asian American: Hate Crimes and Negative Biases During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” noted that the rising hate crimes in the past year have increased anxiety among Asian Americans. Many of them are scared even when running daily errands. Some have even stated that ever since the pandemic broke out, the community have become self-conscious of even coughing in public.

And these are still underreported numbers, Asian Americans tend to under-report crimes due fear of retaliation and a lack of proper understanding of the American legal system. This is especially true in cases of hate crimes.

The mental health effect then may be even pronounced than what has already been discussed. A study from last year analyzed nearly 8,000 people and found that 47% of white people reported no mental health symptoms, compared to just 33% of Asian Americans. And, with mental health already stigmatized inside the Asian American community, we reach a point where there are a large number of Asian Americans going through mental health concerns but they haven’t been able to seek professional support or confide in loved ones.

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