Racially motivated acts of violence encompass not only mass shootings, but also self-induced deaths. Unlike any other racial group in the US, Asian American youth aged 15-24 grapple with suicide as the first leading cause of death. In addition, Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to seek mental health resources. Author and public health doctoral candidate Amelia Noor-Oshiro discusses the implications of this under-researched disparity in an April 2021 article published by The Conversation. Noor-Oshiro points to centuries of stigma as an essential factor for understanding the high suicide rate among Asian American youths. A legacy of structural violence and historical trauma has led to internalized self-hatred, self-harm, and ultimately suicide in Asian Americans. Noor-Oshiro also touches on the intersectionality of Asian American identity to provide a holistic investigation of the suicide endemic. For instance, researchers have found that second-generation immigrants are considered an at-risk group for suicidal behavior and death, but more research is necessary to determine why this is so. That research takes time to conduct, but Noor-Oshira proposes something we can do now: change the norms of inclusion, even by starting at a small, local level.
To attest to the lack of research, at present only one study, published in the early 2000s, examines Asian American mental health. Since this data was collected, the Asian American population has grown by 72 percent. Turning a blind eye to suicide among Asian Americans could lead to an endemic in a rapidly growing community that has limited resources for countering suicidal behavior. Moreover, a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found a positive correlation between suicidal behavior and specific countries or regions of origin. This study specifically noted the risks for young women of South Asian origin. This example addresses the importance of intersectional considerations, for the experiences of a South Asian woman could differ drastically from that of an East Asian woman or those of an Asian man. To the knowledge of the researchers, “this is the first study providing a literature overview on suicidal behaviour and specific risk factors both in migrants and ethnic minorities”— once again supporting the need for more data collection.
In recent years, suicide has made headlines as an unfortunate and increasingly more frequent phenomenon across the United States. Additionally, the media has reported a rise in anti-Asian American sentiment since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all this, corporate news organizations continue to pay little attention, if any at all, to the connection between the two. As of March 2022, no prior reporting on this information has been found from any corporate news organizations.
Source: Amelia Noor-Oshiro, “Asian American Young Adults Are the Only Racial Group with Suicide as Their Leading Cause of Death, So Why Is No One Talking about This?,” The Conversation, April 23, 2021.
Student Researchers: Carly Erickson, Grace Sherwood, and Anne Lizette Sta. Maria (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)