The 'model minority' myth: Its impact on well-being and mental health
Jul 31, 2020 3 mins, 7 secs

Recently, public discussions and debates around the many and varied manifestations of racism and discrimination have brought back into focus the impact of a decades-old narrative haunting the United States: the model minority myth.

However, it has historically led to ethnic segregation, and promotes stereotypes that impact well-being and aspects of mental health.

To better understand the impact of this myth on well-being and healthcare, Medical News Today reached out to Hee-Young*, an Asian-American who has been working hard to unpick the effects of the model minority myth on her own life, and to Prof.

The model minority myth is not a new phenomenon.

In speaking to MNT, Hee-Young emphasized that to properly understand the pervasiveness and negative impact of the model minority myth, one must first understand its history:.

“I think what’s so crucial to understand this is that, first [we should not remove] that ‘myth’ part of the in that phrase [model minority myth], because it is a myth in such an intentionally crafted […] way.

It also rendered those, who internalized positive stereotypes promoted by the myth, to feel inadequate if they experienced mental, emotional, academic, or economic turmoil, putting them off from seeking help for fear of tainting that positive image.

But if we don’t recognize the diversity with the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations, we’re not going to have a good picture of the health outcomes for these groups,” says study co-author Lan Doan, a doctoral researcher at Oregon State University.

The long-lived circulation of the model minority myth has also meant that many ethnic minority individuals in the U.S.

Other specialists suggest those who have internalized the model minority myth may feel additional pressure to succeed, which can affect their mental health and well-being.

Even if they personally perceive the model minority myth to be a myth, there may still be family or community pressure to live up to it.”.

While Hee-Young did not feel impostor syndrome was an adequate term to describe her own experiences, she noted that the systemic racism subtly spreading the model minority myth helped make her feel silenced, occasionally inadequate, and emotionally fatigued.

And after learning about the history of [the model minority myth], it makes sense, because it was a contradiction.

Internalization of the model minority myth also stops people from seeking mental healthcare even if they need it.

They explain that while Asian Americans appear to have a lower prevalence of mental illnesses than the general U.S.

Past studies suggest a direct relation between internalized positive stereotypes and a reluctance to access mental healthcare among those affected by the model minority myth.

For instance, a study published in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology in 2014 explained: “The inverse relation between internalized model minority myth and help-seeking attitudes is consistent with the argument that the model minority stereotype acts as a barrier in Asian American help-seeking.”.

“One possibility is that a stronger belief in the model minority myth may motivate an individual to highly value emotional self-control to maintain a positive self-image of what it means to be an Asian American in the [U.S.],” its authors hypothesize.

Hall and Huang explain that many mental healthcare professionals are ill-equipped to address the impact of stereotypes, such as those perpetuated by the model minority myth, and that they often downplay the emotional effect of subtle discrimination in the form of microaggressions.

Indeed, mental healthcare professionals may engage in microaggressions themselves, further alienating clients from different ethnic backgrounds.

“One way of eradicating stereotypes of Asian Americans is for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to devote more resources to research on Asian Americans


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