Apps and Anonymity: The Key to Evading Cultural Stigma
STIGMA IN AMERICAN SOCIETY
There is of course a general stigma when we discuss mental health, especially in America within our individualistic, capitalist society, where we often place the burden on well-being upon the individual. This catalyzes the stigma on wanting to seek help, discussing the issues present within one’s life, or even taking time out of one’s work day to go out and seek therapy.
However, this stigma is layered upon when we look into minority groups, where this general stigma within American society, is compounded with their own culture’s view on mental health. Whether it is someone from an Immigrant, Asian, Black, or Latinx background, many minorities must navigate the stigma not only within American society towards mental health, but their own family unit and culture.
IMMIGRANT CULTURAL STIGMA
A transcending experience across the many ethnicities that make up the immigrant community includes the belittling of one’s struggles due to their parents’ plight as an immigrant in America. Mental health is often trivialized within such communities as many parents cite how their children’s lives are much better off than their own. However, why can each respective plight not coexist with one another? Of course an immigrant’s experience is tough, but why must that invalidate the experience of their children? This only inhibits many from seeking help as they don’t see how pressing their issues are, and rather put their issues aside, aggravating them.
ASIAN CULTURAL STIGMA
Within the experience of East Asians, South Asians, and Southeast Asians we interviewed in the past, the preeminence of elderly well-being puts a focus on the more tangible, noticeable physical issues many elderly may face, as opposed to the well-being of those suffering from mental health issues; mental health is thus less prioritized and often put aside during discussions.
The Model Minority Myth also plays a major factor within Asian-American lives, as they seek to maintain the image as this exemplary person which is reinforced by parental and societal expectations. As my fellow and past blogger, Abby, elucidated in her article, “Asian Americans and Mental Health”, the model minority stereotype imposes the idea on Asian Americans that they must be “smart, wealthy, self-reliant, obedient, docile, and spiritually enlightened”. This causes many to not seek mental help, for, they believe it indicates a failure on their part.
BLACK CULTURAL STIGMA
A lack of trust with American institutions is a marked factor in how stigma towards mental health has developed within the African American community. As Abby also explained in her article, “African Americans and Mental Health”, African Americans tap into spirituality and family in lieu of seeking help from mental health specialists, as there lies a mistrust within the Black community towards the healthcare industry due to past injustices (and current ones as well). This is coupled with a strident notion of needing to be hypermasculine for men, curtailing many from seeking help and showing emotions like dread since they are perceived to be weak.
LATINX CULTURAL STIGMA
As I discussed earlier within our other article, “Latinx Americans and Mental Health”, machismo and “Catholic guilt” play prominent roles when cultivating the stigma the Latinx community has towards mental health. Machismo can often keep Latinx men, like how hypermasculinity in the Black community does, from showing emotion and seeking help due to the perception of what it means to be a man. And with regard to women, machismo can damage their own self-image as they are constantly looked upon as individuals within machista societies.
Furthermore, “Catholic guilt” may manifest itself within a religious or non-religious person, due to how prevalent Catholicism is within Latinx communities. It is this idea that an individual may feel bad for feeling that their life may be bad; in other words, many see that their issues are isolated, individual phenomenons which they feel guilty for developing as they are the first to blame for all that occurs in their life. This causes many to not seek help, as they may see it as their duty to fix their problems, as opposed to professionals.
APPS, AYANA, AND ANONYMITY
As we reflect upon the cultural stigmas within the prominent minority groups of America, we see how anonymity would allow many to actually seek help, as it allows them to not have to face the burden of family and the experience of therapy they have demonized internally. This anonymity is established through the advent of an app, which AYANA serves to be.
Many argue that apps aren’t as effective as face-to-face therapy, yet this is extremely privileged. You cannot say face-to-face therapy is more effective if people are too discouraged to even seek it in the first place to actually receive treatment.
AYANA’s mission is to address the mental health challenges of minorities (those who rarely seek therapy compared to their white counterparts). If face-to-face therapy is more effective, then we hope to be the gateway to those so often underrepresented and neglected in the therapy sector to transition from our app to face-to-face therapy. And better yet, we serve to help those who aren’t privileged enough to afford the conventional therapy costs of either direct payment for services or action of taking time off from work.
In short, AYANA hopes that with our app being an apparatus to curb the effects of the cultural stigma preventing others from seeking help, therapy will no longer be something for the privileged.