A University of Houston researcher will embark on a study of mental health among Asian American ethnic groups in Houston in hopes of identifying clues that keep some from seeking mental health care.

“There is a lower percentage of mental health disorders among Asian Americans compared to other ethnic groups, but we are unsure of the reasons for this discrepancy,” said Tam Dao, assistant professor of educational psychology in the College of Education. “Studies have shown that Asians suffer from similar rates of mental illness compared to other groups, but for many they don’t actively seek treatment. My research will try to examine why this occurs.”

Funded by a $17,500 grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Dao will streamline intake data from the last five years at the Asian American Family Services (AAFS) in Houston, where he is a part-time staff psychologist. The organization is a nonprofit community center that offers bilingual and bicultural mental health counseling and support. Staff members speak six languages to accommodate their diverse clients. Dao hopes the streamlined data provides a road map to answers about mental health treatments and responses among Asian American ethnic groups.

“Many studies tend to lump all Asian Americans together, but I’m hopeful the data will allow me to separate the groups because they’re very different,” he said. “Their reasons for not seeking mental health care may depend on a number of reasons, such as the language barriers to perceived effectiveness.”

His analysis may lead to intervention strategies that could include additional services cultural-specific treatments, increased efforts to match patients with a therapist of the same gender or ethnic background or with those who share cultural or refugee experiences.

“We’ll be able to paint a clearer picture of mental health among Asian Americans,” Dao said.

The Hogg Foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Gov. James S. Hogg and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. The foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research and public education.

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  1. Could it be that the Asian Americans find other means of handling “mental illness”. There are alternative treatments out there.
    It would be interesting to find out what “treatment” is used.

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