Mental Health Perceptions in a Vietnamese American College Student Population



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This study explores the relationship between Vietnamese American culture and mental health perceptions. Previous research done in the Asian American college student population made strides in identifying cultural values that can hinder help-seeking and open dialogue. However, there has been little ethnographic research done in the last ten years on specific Asian populations like the Vietnamese. This research looks at whether two previously noted barriers to psychological services still play a role: limited awareness of resources and stigma. Semi-formal interviews and case studies were conducted on a young adult college population in Houston. I used content analysis to pull themes from interview texts. I identified cultural phrases and explanations of behavior through simplifying sentences from basic units of meaning, and grouping them into codes, categories, and finally into themes. Together, interviews and participant observations of select individuals in formal and informal settings yielded five themes: Family and Culture, Mental Illness, Stigma, Therapy, and Mental Health. These themes were discussed by comparing responses from Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese participants on mental health perception and resources they accessed during periods of stress. The results support the research that limited awareness of psychological resources and stigma are barriers for help-seeking in all forms for Vietnamese American college students in this study. While more people talk about mental health, there are still cultural values such as resilience and propriety, as well as generational incongruency between participants and their parents that limit openness when talking about mental illness.



Asian Americans, Vietnamese American, Mental health, College students, Generation gap