Since Elementary School, I have always been in a magnet program comprised of predominantly Asian American students. Over the years, I have noticed the problems that my peers and I have faced, and the lack of appropriate resources for us. Asking for help, whether it be academically or with mental health, always resulted in confused glances. I created AAMHI so that we can get help without fear of judgement or criticism, and excel with the right resources.
- Viveka Sinha, founder
THE PROBLEM - STEREOTYPING AND MICROAGRESSIONS
A Blair-wide student survey reveals that 35.7% of Asian American students felt that stereotypes such as the model minority myth affected them and their mental health. However, only 14% reached out for help from counselors. This gap is wider than for any other population at Blair.
The Model Minority Myth is an extremely harmful and dangerous stereotype that mischaracterizes Asian Americans as universally high-performing academically and having overcome the challanges of racial bias, and nothing but that. This is problematic as research shows that the stereotype creates an expectation of unparalleled success and perfection from Asian Americans, with no allowance to ask for help or make mistakes.
Studies have shown that this stereotype is a significant factor in poor mental health among Asian American students. Problematically, the avenues to receive mental health help, such as therapists and school counselors, historically do not work for the Asian American community due to the fear of being criticized by family and peers. The American Psychological Association finds that 17.3% of Asian Americans reported poor mental health, yet Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services than the general population. Only 8.6 percent of Asian-Americans sought any type of mental health services or resource compared to nearly 18 percent of the general population nationwide.
AAMHI serves to provide Asian American students with counselors trained specifically in helping the Asian American community, and lower the effects of the Model Minority Myth by spreading awareness, building a supportive community, and normalizing imperfections, mistakes, and asking for help. Although AAMHI was founded with the hope of creating institutional change in Montgomery County, Maryland, our cause has spread all over the world and united many individuals with similar struggles.
THE SOLUTION - THE BEHAVIORAL NUDGE APPROACH
Drawing inspiration from the behavioral nudge approach pioneered by Richard Thaler, we centered our solution around changing human behavior. Stereotying and microagressions are not always purposeful which is why a behavioral approach is necessary to elevate voices, educate the public, and provide essential resources within our community. By harnessing the power of subtle behavioral cues, we have developed a series of pamphlets and thoughtfully crafted lesson plans designed to serve as effective nudges, guiding individuals towards informed decisions and positive actions.
Our pamphlets, placed in all 66 middle and high schools with the support of the Board of Ed, act as unobtrusive prompts that gently steer people's attention towards significant issues. Through succinct and visually engaging content, these pamphlets deliver key messages that amplify underrepresented voices, shedding light on diverse perspectives and fostering a sense of inclusivity. By leveraging behavioral nudges, we encourage individuals to reflect on the importance of diverse voices and viewpoints, thus sparking curiosity and initiating meaningful conversations.
Complementing the pamphlets, our meticulously designed lesson plans embed behavioral nudges within the educational experience. These plans integrate seamlessly into existing curricula, subtly guiding students towards exploring topics related to inclusivity, empathy, and social understanding. By infusing these concepts into classroom discussions, we empower the next generation with the tools to critically assess stereotypes and biases, while fostering an environment where all voices are valued. The lesson plans work as powerful nudges that prompt students to consider multiple perspectives, nurturing an appreciation for diversity and the sharing of resources.
Furthering this cause, we aimed to provide resources on this website in the form of access to Asian American therapists, an interview initiative, tons of relevent research and other organizations. We also built a supportive community on our forum on this website in order to elevate the voices of Asian American students. Community circles ingrained into our lesson plans also served this purpose. To foster change, we trained counselors with modules that served to alter behavior towards stereotyping, and included another nudge for students and teachers within the county-wide health curriculum. Our panel discussion aimed at parents was also a form of nudging the community towards equitable behavior.
In essence, our adoption of the behavioral nudge approach has allowed us to create a ripple effect of positive change within our community. Through these carefully crafted nudges, we are proud to contribute to the realization of a more informed, harmonious, and equitable community for all.
MORE ON OUR APPROACH TO THE SOLUTION
The beliefs that we hold are not always voluntary because there are always unconcious influences. Our solution is designed to account for the fact that stereotypes originate out of involuntary biases, so the solution is rooted in behavior-change! Read more about the involuntary nature of beliefs here!
We believe that empathy is key when it comes to galvanizing change. In order to counter stereotypical behavior, we must understand where it originates from and why. Even to support students and foster an inclusive environment, we must understand their needs and what they are missing. That's why we base our solution around empathy, understanding stereotypical behavior and how to support student! Learn more about the importance of empathy in this video!