Mental Health in a Filipino American Household

By Julie Jimenez, FINDink Contributor

Since it is Filipino American History month, it’s important to understand that “Filipino-Americans constitute that second-fastest- growing Asian American group in the United States, following Chinese Americans.” (Sanchez & Gaw, 2007)

They also have the highest labor participation among all Asian groups, and were one of the earliest immigrants, dating as early as 1763, where seafarers jumped ship and settled in the Louisiana bayous.

With that being said, Filipino Americans have been shown to be a high risk group for mental disorders such as depression. The percentage of Filipino Americans who are depressed sits at around 14%. However, there still tends to be an everlasting stigma that effects Filipino American families and their views on mental health. (Sanchez & Gaw, 2007)

For instance, Catholicism is the most practiced religion within the Filipino community. It is a faith where adversity and suffering is typical and can be handled because of their beliefs with God.

In terms of psychotherapy and treatment for mental illnesses, many Filipino American families view therapeutic sessions as costly. It’s not necessary. Economic needs are more important that mental health needs.

Why is this the norm for us though?

Why is it in our culture to stigmatize and criticize people with mental illnesses?

Why is it almost impossible to talk about a negative feeling in our households?

Why do we have to repress our thoughts and our feelings because we know our parents would shame us?

Why can’t we be comfortable in our own home, where we can share our values without being yelled at and constantly reminded about where we came from?

Why can’t my parents, or even in better words, my own family love me enough to let me get the help I need?

Why can’t they see that I can’t “do this on my own?”

That I am “trying my best?”

That I’m not “sick in the head?”

That I’m sad for too many days at a time?

“She seemed so okay at home.” My mom told my sister.

But that’s because I had to condition myself to seem “okay.”

Filipino culture is so centered and so focused around the family. Family time is very important to us. We want our families to be happy, stable and successful. 

But why is it that within my own family, I can’t express who I am?

It’s this stigma in our culture. It’s this idea of a perfect family with so much happiness that any negative feeling should not exist.

While there are many aspects to the Filipino culture that I appreciate, love, and cherish…

This is one that I don’t understand.

And having been through the pain of having my own parents shun me for how I felt, I think it’s time that we tackle this stigma.

We need to start allowing ourselves to open up more without judgement.

Without fear.

We need to appreciate the many other wonderful aspects of our culture, while also fixing our views on serious issues such as mental health.

And that starts with us and the younger generations to do so.


Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.