Mental Health in the Indian American Community

Mental Health in the Indian American Community

Indian American immigrants represent the second largest group of immigrants coming to the US from a single country, behind only Mexico. Per a 2021 estimate, there are about 4.4 million people in the US who identify as “Asian Indian”. Given these very significant numbers, there is very little data available about the state of mental health in the Indian American population. Per the US Census categories, Indian Americans are Asian. However, most Americans, including researchers in the field, do not think of people with roots in the Indian subcontinent as Asian, leading to “South Asian exclusion”. This lack of data, coupled with stigma, leads to very low awareness about mental health issues in our community.

Furthermore, mental health issues in the US are seen from a primarily Western-centric view. There is only now a rising awareness in the field that distress can be felt and described in a variety of ways that may not be in line with a diagnostic manual that was put together for people from a different cultural background. Hence it is possible that a large number of Indian Americans who are distressed are not getting the help they need, either because of their lack of awareness, reluctance to ask for help, or are being misdiagnosed due to a difference in the idioms of distress.

There is a lot of research that supports the value of early intervention leading to better outcomes. In order to get people into the appropriate treatment early, we need to be able to reach out to them in culturally congruent ways. The lack of data on mental health in South Asians is a huge barrier to these efforts. We need to understand the magnitude of the problem, and how distress is experienced in order to tailor our outreach efforts accordingly.

We have a research survey that is open to anyone in the US who is 18 or over to gather more data about attitudes about mental health and acculturation. This has been approved by Stanford University’s Institutional Review Board (Protocol # 67231). The survey takes about 15 minutes and all information collected is de-identified. Please help the community by filling it out, and sharing it with others you may know.

Link to the survey:

Dr. Sripriya (Priya) Chari is a CA Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor working with the INSPIRE Clinic at Stanford. Dr. Chari’s clinical interests lie in early identification of the psychosis risk syndrome and providing evidence based psychotherapeutic interventions from a recovery oriented perspective. Prior to the INSPIRE Clinic, Dr. Chari was a clinical assessor for the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study, aimed at studying the predictors for conversion to psychosis of youth at clinical high risk for psychosis. She also worked for Santa Clara County Department of Mental Health, in inpatient, outpatient, and forensic settings providing psychotherapy and assessment services.

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