“后疫情时代是一个很好的机会。”长期服务亚裔社区的心理咨询师Pamela Yew Schwartz说：“这个时刻，让我们反思，如何更好地照顾自己，照顾别人。”何永康则说：“在疫情中，亚裔首当其冲，受到伤害，希望在后疫情时代，亚裔群体不是最后一个恢复的。”
（The Gerontological Society of America, The Journalists Network on Generations and the Silver Century Foundation）赞助的系列节目中，我们特别关注在过去一年的疫情里，亚裔老人的精神健康经历了怎样的危机，同时，一起寻找如何获得各方的帮助，像保护我们的身体健康一样，守护我的精神健康。
Mental Health of Asian Elderly in the Pandemic: Fight against Anti-Asian
"Two months before New York State closed down, I had staff members, community members we served who were Asian American already letting us know that people are making remarks about them and making jokes about Corona Virus near them." Wayne Ho, President & CEO of Chinese-American Planning Council Inc.,one of the biggest organizations that serving the Chinese community, recalled that since the pandemic first broke out in China, discrimination against Asian American has actually continued throughout the whole pandemic.
Flora Ferng, East Asian Communities Liaison from NYC Commission on Human Rights, said they started to do seminars to remind people of the possibilities of being discriminated even before the pandemic broke out in US. “It was the end of January, 2020, the pandemic had not yet broken out in NYC, and there was no confrimed case in US. We had already started holding some seminars to remind Chinese Americans that other than worrying about health, we also need to be cautious that we might recieve discrimination.”
Wayne Ho said that discrimination was getting more and more severe as CPC working on restoring the in-person community services. “In the past couple of months, as CPC has reopened all our programs for in-person services, I now have staff telling me that they more afraid of catching a fist to their faces than they are catching COVID.”
"This absolute has a huge impact on the elderly." Xiaochun Lu, psychiatrist of Mental Health in Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, said that many of her patients who are Chinese seniors told her that they dare not go out: "Because most of them are not good in English, and they feel very insecure. Now with all the news about anti-Asian crimes that targeting seniors, their fear might be magnified."
Lequn Yu, who lives with his daughter and son-in-law, said that he dare not to take subway any more. “I used to go to Manhattan a lot, but now I’m afraid of going to the place like Manhattan.” He said. Yao Hong, who lives with her elderly parents, said, she will be very worried if her parents going out: "I’m really worried about them. My parents used to go to Flushing by themselves almost everyday, but now I will drive them there if they want to go and ask them to be very careful. There have been several incidents in Flushing."
Echo Song, from Department of Health & Mental Hygiene of NYC said that there has been a significant, troubling increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and bias incidents. “There was one reported incident of Anti-Asian crime in 2019. During the 11-month period in 2020, that number increased to 205. And due to the low reporting records of Asian community, the number is expected to be much less than the incidents really happened.”
In case of encourter anti-Asian hate crimes and bias incidents, Flora Ferng encourages everyone, especially the elderly, to report: “Because in many situations, the discriminate incidents will escalate. Maybe at first, it could be just a few words, and if it turns out that no onel paid attention, there could be a worse attach the next time." Flora said that many people encounter the bias incidents near their homes or the place they go frequently. If they do not take action, they are likely to encounter discrimination again: "So we hope that everyone who meet the incidents will report to the police station or NYC Commission on Human Rights so that we can provide some help."
Dr. Henry Chen, Primary Care Physician who served Chinese community for many years, provided some tips for seniors to protect themselves: "First, if you want go out, go with your friends, at least two or three people together. The more you have on your side, the less likely to be bullied. Secondly, now there are some young people standing up to help the elderly and protect them. Seniors also need to know this kind of information.”Xiaochun Lu also agrees that many information must be communicated with the elderly in time: “In fact, I think that we should trust our seniors. Every family member should communicate in their own ways with the elderly about current situation and the methods they could use to reach out for help. The most important thing is to let seniors know they can always ask for help when they are in need."
Echo Song, Public Information Speaker of Department of Health & Mental Hygiene of NYC recommended the mental health support program launched especially to address the problems happened in the pandemic: " We have a program called NY Project Hope. The program has two parts, first is the mental health helpline 1.844.863.9314. Crisis counselors are available over the phone 7 days a week from 8am-10pm. You can also get connected to a crisis counselor by visiting NYProjectHope.org and selecting “Find a Provider Near You”. These crisis consultants are very experienced and can help you deal with urgent psychological problems such as PTSD. "She also revealed that this project is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), so it is a free service.
“I think the post pandemic is a opportunity to let people know how do we take care of ourselves and how do we take care of each other, whether not it’s racial issues or mental health issues.” said Pamela Yew Schwartz, therapist & Former Secretary of New York Coalition for Asian American Mental Health. Wayne Ho also hope that Asian Americans can soon get rid of the impact of the pandemic: “We’d like to remind people that Asian Americans that we were the first ones to suffer from the pandemic, and we hope we are not the last ones to recover.”
June is Mental Health Awareness Month in New York City. We launched our special programs paying attention to the crisis in the mental health of Asian elderly people during the COVID pandemic in the past year. The program is sponored by The Gerontological Society of America, The Journalists Network on Generations and the Silver Century Foundation. We hope to promote the mental health while call for more attention to the equal access to the mental health resouces.