Public health organizations denounce anti-Asian violence

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Key points to remember

  • Public health and medical organizations have issued statements calling for an end to anti-Asian hatred and gun violence.
  • Hateful incidents targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States
  • After a series of shootings in Atlanta, Georgia last week, public health officials are calling for gun reform and increased mental health services to support Asian-American communities.

In the aftermath of a shooting that killed eight Asian women at three Atlanta-area spas last week, calls to end anti-Asian violence are in full force.

The shooting comes at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are skyrocketing. The Stop AAPI Hate organization reported 3,796 hate incidents between March 2020 and February 2021, including 987 in the first three months of this year.

“We are saddened and angry that once again we must mourn the brutal murders of innocent people,” the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) wrote in a statement last week. “This tragedy is an indication that the racism directed against Asian Americans is becoming more violent and deadly.”

Various health and medical organizations have spoken out against harmful public health crises caused by racism, gun violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must work together to better understand the culture of violence in our country, identify common sense solutions and not let hatred divide us just when we need everyone’s help to put an end to these doubles. public health crises, ”American Public Health Association (APHA) Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, MD, said in a statement.

What it means for you

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health amid an increase in anti-Asian violence, you can find mental health providers to help you in the Bridges Directory or in the Directory of Asian, Pacific Islander and South Asian therapists. If you need immediate assistance, you can call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Peak in racist attacks

At the start of the pandemic, “xenophobic language around the virus threatened to fuel further discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans, which was already a major concern due to long-standing interpersonal and structural racism. “said Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association (AMA). declaration following the attacks. In December, WADA declared racism a threat to public health, and the organization determined gun violence to be a threat to public health in 2016.

Three in 10 Asian adults say they have been the target of racial slurs or jokes about their race or ethnicity since the start of the pandemic in the United States, according to data from the Pew Research Center in July.

Some advocates say hate incidents are underreported, creating barriers for people trying to understand and resolve the issue. According to Stop AAPI data, which was collected on a voluntary basis, verbal harassment and avoidance accounted for over 88% of incidents and 11% involved physical assault. Since legal definitions of hate crimes vary from state to state, many instances of verbal harassment and civil rights violations may not be reflected in official data.

President Biden acknowledged the apparent rise in racism and xenophobia in a Jan. 26 executive order calling for action against the intolerance of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The memorandum calls for “advancing cultural skills, access to languages ​​and sensitivity to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” in the federal government’s COVID-19 response, and encourages agencies to consult with public health experts to support these communities.

Gun violence is a public health crisis

In statements following the shooting, WADA and APHA called gun violence a public health crisis, noting the need for gun reform legislation to keep communities safe in the world. nationwide.

“If you are constantly stressed or scared, it will increase the wear and tear on your body, and it will potentially undermine your sense of security… making it more difficult for some people to leave their homes to go to places where they felt they were safe. security before, ”Susan Polan, PhD, associate executive director of public affairs and advocacy for the APHA told Verywell.

Mass shootings can have intense and far-reaching implications for survivors. About 28% of people who witnessed a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder and about a third develop acute stress disorder, estimates the National Center for PTSD. Witnesses of violence and family and community members may suffer from anxiety, stress and depression.

“Mental health issues are both under-studied and under-addressed,” Polan says. “But we do know that the likelihood of increased anxiety and stress will have long-term implications both physical and mental for people, and particularly for the Asian American community.”

Safeguard mental health

As individuals and communities grapple with the aftermath of the March 16 shooting and other instances of anti-Asian violence, organizations work to promote access to mental health services. This effort includes de-stigmatizing mental health services, increasing accessibility, and ensuring that people can access mental health professionals who share similar life experiences with them.

“During the second half of last year, there has been a growing recognition that this is not just a problem of people potentially with infectious disease, it is about ‘a problem of people cut off from all their social ties and unable to interact. in a normal way, who learn to be afraid of people in their community, ”says Polan.

The AAPA encourages Asians and Asian Americans in their communities to take the time and space to take care of themselves and to support their family and friends.

“For allies and supporters, we encourage you to contact Asians and Asian Americans within your network to leave space for sharing, ventilation, mourning, fear and any other emotion that may arise. “, they wrote in the statement.

The organization encourages allies not to reach out to people with whom they do not have a strong relationship, just to “feel good” about their ally. He also urges people to discuss racism and its effects with children and to take action to dismantle systems of oppression within their own communities.

“We are in the same boat, and every voice and contribution adds to our strength as a united nation and as mental health professionals dedicated to the care and safety of all,” they wrote.


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