Reducing mental health stigma in the Filipino community

Published on 
September 16, 2016

Recent studies have indicated an increased need for preventive mental health and social services among Filipinos, in part because of higher rates of problem behaviors such as substance use, high school dropout, and teen births compared to other Asian subgroups. Filipino adolescents were also found to have increased reports of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Despite these behavioral health challenges, Filipino adults and children have low rates of mental health care and preventive care utilization. Barriers to accessing mental health care include stigma, cultural factors (hiya or shame to the family), lack of knowledge about mental health and services, and conflicting messages about mental health received from professionals and other community leaders.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation  will fund Joyce Javier, MD, MPH, MS, of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for a three-year period  for her research “Prevention of Behavioral Health Disparities in an Immigrant Community Through Community Partnerships: Creating a Culture of Mental Health.”  

The new award will fund a community-partnered initiative to address barriers and needs in the community, incorporating  kapwa, a core Filipino value defined as community, togetherness, or a sense of shared identity.

Javier, whose interests have long focused on the promotion of community health and wellness among Filipino American youth and efforts to reduce health disparities among immigrant children, is the principal investigator of the study.  Her co-investigators at CHLA are Dean Coffey, PsyD; Jed David, MS, OT; Aviril Sepulveda, MOT; and also includes Horacio Lopez, MD, a community pediatrician. Their primary community partner is Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), a community-based organization serving Filipino families in Los Angeles. Ana Jayme, MA and Shelina Miranda, MSW are key staff at SIPA involved with this initiative.

Javier’s team is part of the first cohort of Clinical Scholars Fellows – one of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s new leadership development programs – comprised of 30 clinically active health care providers who collaborate in teams with fellow clinicians from a wide range of disciplines including nursing, audiology, pharmacy and social work to create a national culture of health through local community initiatives.  Learn more about the proposed study.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, supporting research and programs targeting some of America’s most pressing health issues—from substance abuse to improving access to quality health care.