The Mental Health of Asians in Canada during COVID-19

In May 2021, Bloomberg published a special feature headlined, “Vancouver Is the Hate Crime Capital in North America”, exposing how the city’s long history of anti-Asian racism has boiled over to a surge in attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vancouver police data showed that Anti-Asian hate crimes increased almost eight-fold in Vancouver, correlating with the increases in COVID-19 cases since March 2019. However, the Vancouver police data most likely reflected underreported numbers of anti-Asian hate crime due to several factors, including flawed crime reporting systems. When the BC premier promised not only to introduce anti-racism legislation and prosecute hate crimes, but also to compel the Education Ministry to increase anti-racism dialogues in classrooms, it showed that the provincial government identified anti-Asian racism as an alarming issue of concern.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian surveys foresaw growing Anti-Asian racism in Canada. Xenophobia against Chinese people was identified as a key mental health impact, and assaults, verbal threats, graffiti and other injustices had been directed at people of Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian heritage in Canada. However, such studies relied on self-reported experiences of Asians in Canada, thus the findings may have been inaccurate and the issues of growing anti-Asian racism required more robust research.

How does acute, chronic and traumatic stress, particularly by unpredictable and uncontrollable stressors such as anti-Asian attacks, trigger psychological and physiological stress responses that can harm health? How can we predict the differences in exposure and vulnerability to stressors and stress-related disorders? Are certain individuals and groups, such as Asian adolescents, more exposed and vulnerable to stress?

What is Acute Stress?

Acute stress is short-term, event based exposures to threatening or challenging stimuli that evoke a psychological and/or physiological stress response. Greater cardiovascular reactivity to acute stressors has been potentially associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

What is Chronic Stress?

Chronic stressors are prolonged threatening or challenging circumstances that disrupt daily life and continue for at least one month. Individuals under chronic stress are at greater risk of chronic illness, mortality and accelerated biological aging.

What are Traumatic Life Events?

Traumatic life events are time-limited and episodic events in which one’s physical and/or psychological safety is threatened, and involve significant adjustment to one’s current life pattern. Experiencing more traumatic events across one’s lifetime is consistently associated with worse health and mortality.

Where can you get help?

Are you stressed? Stress from daily hassles, life events, acute stress, chronic stress or traumatic stress is associated with worse mental and physical health. Speak with a registered counsellor at pandahug.ca who can help you manage your stress with an empathic multicultural and multi-disciplinary approach that guide you to be healthier, stronger and happier.

We offer Coaching, Consulting and Counselling. We help clients manage their stress with an evidence-based approach.