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Excerpted From: Oliver J. Kim, Tsunami: Recommitting to Address AAPI Mental Health in a Post-Covid Era, 46 Nova Law Review 370 (Winter, 2022) (146 Footnotes) (Full Document)


OliverJKimDuring the pandemic in 2021, I learned about the tragic death of a fellow AsianAmerican student, Robert Liu from my undergraduate alma mater. An excellent student involved in campus activities, Robert tragically took his own life after struggling with mental health issues. Learning about an initiative in his memory to raise attention to on-campus resources for students' mental health led me to reflect on the stresses and strife that had occurred as a result of the pandemic. While too many had suffered from the global pandemic, both at home and abroad, many Americans were facing stress and anxiety from political, economic, and social unrest that was exacerbated by the precautions necessary to avoid the COVID-19 virus.

In addition to this general anxiety affecting the populace, the AsianAmerican and Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) community has seen a series of violent attacks on community members, including horrific shootings in Atlanta and Indianapolis. This violent focus on AAPIs has led to discussion among both policymakers and researchers about how to address anti-AAPI racism, as well as recognizing the related health effects of living under the fear of continued violence.

Because these tragic events remain fresh in our collective consciousness, one could forget that these concerns existed long before the pandemic. Rather, the pandemic has led to a more public questioning of systemic issues and biases that exist in our healthcare system--including who has access to mental health services and how they are allocated--that must be addressed to make it more equitable across all communities. This Article will first look at the mental health issues that the AAPI community faces, including prior to the pandemic. The second part of this Article will then discuss how the pandemic and concurrent events have exacerbated those mental health issues within the AAPI community. Finally, Part V will provide a series of recommendations for policymakers to consider to improve mental healthcare delivery for the AAPI community.

This Article is not suggesting a more pressing need for AAPIs over other communities, but instead it attempts to demonstrate why the healthcare system needs a more equitable approach to healthcare delivery through a reflection on both pre-pandemic and current events that are particular to the AAPI community. Such a system may result in better outcomes and thus greater equity for many communities of color. In building that more equitable system post-pandemic, we must recognize three interconnected, but not necessarily exhaustive issues: Asian cultural attitudes towards mental health, AAPIs' station as a community of color, and understanding the long-term impact of the COVID pandemic on the community.

[. . .]

The COVID-19 pandemic has had consequences for the AAPI community as it has for our country and the world. But “[w]e can learn from this pandemic and take something from the despair that it has caused” to become a more resilient and equitable society. For the AAPI community, we can not only reexamine the impact of health policy--particularly mental health policies--on us but also our overall role in society and our cultural understandings. At the same time, we must work with other stakeholders to make sure that our healthcare system addresses healthcaredisparities rather than continuing past inequities. Such efforts directed toward our mental health system will ensure that is more responsive and resilient to our country while being more equitable for the AAPI community.

Mr. Kim received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota and his LL.M. from Georgetown University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh.

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