This month is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. It’s also Mental Health Awareness Month. The alignment wasn’t planned, but it’s an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a community that is facing both increased discrimination and unique and urgent mental health needs. Discrimination faced by Asian Americans is not new, but the surge in anti-Asian incidents during the pandemic has created a mental health crisis among an already vulnerable population. This past year has seen a long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism, including that directed toward Asian Americans. Part of that effort should include ending the stigma around mental health, widening access to mental health resources and highlighting the importance of self-care and proactively seeking help when it’s most needed.   

Since the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., we have seen an alarming rise in hatred and discrimination directed at Asian Americans. Between March 2020 and February 2021, there were nearly 3,800 hate incidents reported, according to a report by Stop AAPI Hate. Another study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that anti-Asian hate crime surged in 2020 by 150% in the 16 largest U.S. cities. And then in March of this year, there were the shootings in Atlanta of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.  

In addition to immediate threats to physical safety, this crisis carries consequences for Asian Americans’ mental health. Research shows that Asian Americans who have faced discrimination related to the pandemic have increased levels of anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping. As Michelle Williams, Dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says, “racism is a public health crisis.” Here’s what she wrote after the murder of George Floyd: “In addition to the consequences of structural racism, it is well-documented that racism itself is hard on a person’s health. Chronic stress caused by discrimination can trigger a cascade of adverse health outcomes, from high blood pressure and heart disease to immunodeficiency and accelerated aging.”

This is no less true for those working hard in the fight against racism. When you’re giving your time, energy and commitment to a purpose greater than yourself, it’s easy to sacrifice your individual well-being to the collective mission. Often, this pressure comes from within. For example, Asian Americans are less likely than other groups to seek help for mental health. This is partly due to the “model minority” stereotype: the toxic idea that Asian Americans are hardworking, quiet and compliant. “The mental health toll that Asian Americans have always had to live with has been one of invisibility,” says Sherry Wang, a professor at Santa Clara University. “Like colorblindness — not really seeing Asian Americans as people of color who struggle with issues of racism, poverty and health inequities.”

Addressing these wrongs will take systemic and institutional change, but also a realization of the importance of self-care. Far from being self-indulgent, self-care is what allows us to fight for what we believe in and sustain ourselves in the face of daunting, draining challenges. In fact, it was an important part of the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks practiced yoga and even demonstrated it at events in Detroit, where she continued her activism and lived to the age of 92. In fact, so many of our best tools for nurturing our mental well-being — like mindfulness, meditation and yoga — have origins in Asia and South Asia. And the effectiveness of this rich source of ancient wisdom has long been validated by science.

In the face of the current crisis, a range of voices are sharing this wisdom at a time when it is urgently needed. “The first step in attaining community health is attaining self-health,” writes Siena Iwasaki Milbauer, for the Asian American Organizing Project. “Self-care is physical, like eating well, sleeping enough, and getting regular exercise. It is also mental. Having time to rest and recharge isn’t a privilege, it’s a right.” Or, as Helen H. Hsu, former president of the Asian American Psychological Association, puts it: “The work will always be there. If somebody needs some time for rest and self-care and to turn off the news for a bit, that’s OK.”

For more information, the Asian American Psychological Association has put together a list of resources on mental health, self-care, responding to racism and xenophobia, engaging in faith and spirituality, and allied organizations that support AAPI health here. And you can find ways to support the AAPI community here.


  • Arianna Huffington

    Founder & CEO of Thrive Global

    Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, the founder of The Huffington Post, and the author of 15 books, including Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. In 2016, she launched Thrive Global, a leading behavior change tech company with the mission of changing the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success.

    She has been named to Time Magazine's list of the world’s 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list. Originally from Greece, she moved to England when she was 16 and graduated from Cambridge University with an M.A. in economics. At 21, she became president of the famed debating society, the Cambridge Union.

    She serves on numerous boards, including Onex, The B Team, JUST Capital, and Gloat.

    Her last two books, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder and The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time, both became instant international bestsellers. Most recently, she wrote the foreword to Thrive Global's first book Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps.
  • Somesh Dash

    General Partner


    Somesh Dash joined IVP in March of 2005. He focuses primarily on growth investments in Enterprise Software, Consumer and Mobile Internet, and Digital Health companies. Somesh was recognized by The New York Times and CB Insights in 2019 as one of the top 100 venture capitalists and by GrowthCap as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Growth Investors in 2019, which highlights exceptional private capital investors in the growth segment. Somesh actively participated in IVP's investments in AddThis (ORCL), Akamai (AKAM), Aledade, Amplitude, AppDynamics (CSCO), At Road (TRMB), Ayasdi, Brex, Business Insider (Axel Springer), CafePress (PRSS), (CRCM), ComScore (SCOR), Datalogix (ORCL), Danger (MSFT), Digital River (DRIV), Discord, Dropbox (DBX), Expanse (PANW), FleetMatics (FLTX), Gaia Online, H1, Hipmunk (SAP), Humu, Klout (Lithium), Lime, Loopnet (CSGP), Lyra Health, MotoSport (LINTA), MySQL (ORCL), Netflix (NFLX), Personal Capital (Empower), Pindrop, Pure Storage (PSTG), Qubole (Idera), Quigo (TWX), Rubrik, Shazam (AAPL), SoundCloud, Tanium, Thrive Global, TuneIn, Uber (UBER), Uproxx (WMG), Walker & Company (PG), Whisper, ZEFR, and Zynga (ZNGA). Prior to joining IVP, Somesh was an Analyst in the Corporate Finance Division of Credit Suisse's Technology Investment Banking Group. While at Credit Suisse, Somesh focused on strategic financing initiatives for a number of public and private technology companies. Prior to joining Credit Suisse, Somesh worked for Luxmi Capital, an early stage venture capital fund focused on digital media investments. He also worked for the Corporate Development Division of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) in Mumbai, India. Somesh is currently a member of the Management Board at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB), the board of The Tech Interactive, and the Advisory Board of Malaria No More. He’s a former member of the Advisory Board of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, the Haas Alumni Board and the Haas Development Board at UC Berkeley. He’s also formerly served on the Tech Advisory Group of UCSF, the Advisory Board for Stanford’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS), and was a term member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Somesh earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.