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Minority Women's Health

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Mental health problems and suicide

Types of mental health problems

Some studies show that Chinese-Americans have high rates of depression. In fact, one study found that the suicide rate among elderly Chinese-American women is 10 times higher than among white women. Some Asian immigrants have fled violence and turmoil, putting them at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder. The clash between mainstream culture and traditional Asian values may be stressful for Asian-American youth. Visit the mental health section of womenshealth.gov to learn the symptoms of these and other mental illnesses and how to get help.

Money problems, health problems, and the loss of loved ones are all sources of stress, worry, and sadness. During stressful times, feeling sad, worried, or anxious for a little while is normal. But it's not normal to feel this way a lot of the time. Ongoing feelings of sadness and numbness can be signs of depression. Constant worrying that won't go away can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. These feelings are not just "in your head" or a sign of weakness. Mental health problems, such as anxiety and mood disorders, are real illnesses, just like diabetes or heart disease. They can cause changes in your brain and body chemistry.

Treatment can help people with mental health problems to feel better. Yet, many Asian-Americans do not get help until problems are severe. Many Asian-Americans may avoid seeking help because of the cultural stigma placed on mental illness or for fear of bringing shame to the family. In fact, the clash between mainstream culture and traditional Asian values may be stressful for Asian-American youth. In addition, some Asian-Americans cannot find services that meet their language needs or lack access to care.

Getting help is important. Unlike most disabling physical illnesses, mental illness often begins early in life. The sooner a mental health problem is discovered, the better the chance for a full recovery.

Remember: Mental illnesses are real, and treatment can help. If emotional problems are interfering with work, school, relationships, or home life, see a doctor.

If you have thoughts of hurting or killing yourself, get medical help right away. Call 911, 800-SUICIDE, or 800-273-TALK (8255), or check in your phone book for the number of a suicide crisis center.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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