APIDA Men Are Less Likely to Seek Mental Health Support. These 6 Employer Strategies Can Break Down the Barriers.

Stereotypes and cultural norms present unique challenges for APIDA men in the workplace. Empower them to seek mental health support and enhance their professional growth.

Written by
photo authr
Jack Yuan
Senior Manager, Software Engineering
Clinically reviewed by
photo authr
A young man drinks coffee while looking at his cell phone

Jump to section

    Did you know that individuals from APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) cultural backgrounds are 60% less likely to seek mental health support compared to their white counterparts?

    There’s a common stereotype that suggests APIDA individuals, particularly men, are stoic and high-achieving “model minorities” who don’t experience mental health issues. 

    The reality is that APIDA men, like everyone else, need mental health support. Unfortunately, systemic barriers and cultural norms often discourage them from seeking the help they require.

    HR leaders and employers can combat these harmful stereotypes and create a supportive work environment where APIDA men can truly thrive.

    Patriarchal expectations for APIDA men

    In many APIDA cultures, patriarchal norms set strict expectations for men, shaping their roles as providers, decision-makers, and emotional beings. These cultural standards often promote stoicism, self-sacrifice, and a reluctance to express emotions openly. 

    There's a prevailing belief that it’s better to handle situations pragmatically and move on rather than deal with emotions directly—which can cause APIDA men to suppress their feelings and maintain a stoic front, even when facing adversity or challenges.

    Within APIDA communities, discussing mental health issues is often seen as taboo, reinforcing a culture of silence and stigma around emotional well-being. Consequently, APIDA men are less likely to seek help for mental health concerns, which only perpetuates the cycle of silence and stigma. 

    The model minority myth and its impact on APIDA men

    The model minority myth paints APIDA individuals as exceptionally successful, academically gifted, and without significant needs for support. It implies that APIDA individuals don’t face significant obstacles or discrimination, suggesting that success comes solely from hard work. 

    This stereotype overlooks the diversity within the APIDA community and the systemic challenges many face. It can also reinforce harmful stereotypes that portray APIDA individuals as compliant and self-sufficient

    For APIDA men, the impact of the model minority myth on mental health is significant. Being perceived as inherently successful places immense pressure on them to meet unrealistic standards of success and achievement. This pressure can lead to feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, and anxiety about failing to meet these standards. 

    Additionally, the myth suggests that all APIDA men are entirely self-reliant, which is far from the truth. Everyone needs support sometimes, and the myth can hinder APIDA men from seeking mental health support or reduce the likelihood that others will offer it. 

    Coupled with patriarchal cultural expectations, these factors make it particularly challenging for APIDA men to seek and receive the mental health support they need. 

    Workplace implications for APIDA men

    Stereotypes and cultural norms present unique challenges for APIDA men in the workplace. Often viewed as diligent workers who don’t require support or guidance, this perception can lead to APIDA men being overlooked for promotions or advancement opportunities. They’re seen as knowledgeable and self-sufficient, which mistakenly signals they don’t need further investment or development.

    APIDA men might also find it difficult to ask for help or seek support in the workplace, especially regarding mental health. Whether accessing EAP resources, taking time off for therapy or coaching, or requesting a more flexible work arrangement, obtaining this kind of support can be more challenging. 

    Cultural norms may discourage APIDA men from reaching out for assistance due to fear of judgment or stigma from colleagues or superiors. These barriers can foster a reluctance to seek help for mental health issues, ultimately affecting their well-being and professional growth.

    Strategies for employers to support APIDA men's mental health

    Employers play a pivotal role in addressing the unique challenges faced by APIDA men. By implementing tailored strategies and initiatives, leaders can empower APIDA men to prioritize their well-being and thrive professionally, ultimately contributing to a more resilient and diverse workforce.

    Education and awareness-raising initiatives

    Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can provide critical mental health support and connect employees with similar cultural backgrounds and life experiences. 

    At Spring Health, our APIDA ERG—initiated by employees over a year ago—has become a supportive space for bonding, community, and shared understanding. Bridging across various roles, from engineers to mental health professionals, our ERG has become a space where APIDA men can feel seen and understood. 

    By facilitating these spaces, employers can promote a culture of inclusivity and support.

    Inclusive workplace culture

    Creating an inclusive and supportive workplace begins with recognizing and acknowledging the stigma surrounding emotions and mental health among APIDA men. 

    Organizations can take proactive steps by fostering an environment where seeking help is not only accepted, but encouraged and supported. In doing so, employers can empower APIDA men to prioritize their mental well-being without fear of stigma or judgment.

    Training for managers and HR leaders

    Training sessions for managers and HR leaders can focus on recognizing and supporting barriers to APIDA men accessing mental health support. Likewise, education on harmful stereotypes like the model minority myth can help break down the barriers, ensuring APIDA employees have equal opportunities for growth and advancement within the organization. 

    Through targeted training and support, employers can help managers and HR leaders effectively advocate for the mental health and career development of APIDA men.

    Flexible work arrangements

    Offering flexible work arrangements and providing mental health days can significantly support APIDA men's mental health in the workplace. These accommodations help people of all cultural backgrounds maintain work-life balance, reducing stress and burnout. 

    By offering flexibility, employers demonstrate their commitment to supporting the well-being of all employees, including APIDA men.

    Culturally-sensitive mental health support

    As we’ve already mentioned, programs like Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can greatly support employee mental health, but they must also address individual cultural needs and backgrounds. Organizations can ensure access to resources specifically tailored to APIDA people—for instance, mental health providers from APIDA cultural backgrounds. 

    Providing options for cultural and language fit within your mental health benefit can increase comfort and facilitate a person’s willingness to engage in therapy.

    Psychological safety

    Creating psychological safety in the workplace helps APIDA men feel empowered to speak up and contribute effectively. People from APIDA cultural groups may refrain from voicing concerns due to a fear of “rocking the boat” or being perceived negatively. 

    Employers can intentionally create an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and respected, and all employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions—and seeking help when needed.

    Support APIDA men by understanding cultural norms

    Promoting mental health initiatives in the workplace starts with a thorough understanding of the diverse cultural norms that influence APIDA men. By actively addressing their unique barriers and stereotypes, we can foster more inclusive and supportive environments.

    This cultural awareness not only empowers APIDA men but also improves the overall well-being of all employees. Recognizing and integrating this understanding is essential for effective and comprehensive workplace mental health strategies.

    Uncover six dynamic strategies to celebrate APIDA diversity and inspire your team to embrace APIDA culture in the workplace.

    About the Author
    photo authr
    Jack Yuan
    Senior Manager, Software Engineering

    I am originally from NYC (Brooklyn -> Queens) and currently live near Seattle with my wife and two kids. I’ve worked in tech roles at AWS, small startups, defense contracting, and city government. I joined Spring Health because the mission really aligns with one of my personal philosophies that technology should be used to benefit people and lower barriers. I love to cook, hang out with my family, go hiking, roast my own coffee (and drink it too!)

    About the clinical reviewer
    photo authr

    Stay connected to the latest in mental health!

    Our newsletter delivers expert insights, personal stories, and practical strategies straight to your inbox. Join us to better support your team’s mental health.