Nurturing Our Roots: AAPI Mental Health and Inner Child Healing

In the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, the conversation around mental health has often been shrouded in silence. According to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, AAPIs have the “lowest help-seeking rate of any racial/ethnic group”. This is due to multiple factors including: language barriers, stigma and shame, the “model minority” myth, insufficient health insurance coverage, immigration status, faith and spirituality, and alternatives to treatment.

I love plants so stay with me here —imagine mental health as a garden. In the AAPI garden, we face challenges and joys influenced by our cultural background. Strong family bonds and the importance of collective wellbeing are like the soil that nourishes our mental garden.

But it’s equally important to recognize that cultural expectations can act as both sunshine and storm clouds to our garden. And sometimes, these blossoms may need extra care, and that is okay!

Inner Child Work

Now, imagine your younger self — the child within you who holds the key to many of your emotions and patterns of being in the world. Inner child work is like taking a journey back to the magical garden of your past, tending to the little saplings of your memories and experiences.

It’s a bit like being your own favorite gardener. It involves reconnecting with experiences and feelings of your younger self. Just as we water and care for our plants to help them grow, inner child work nurtures our emotional wellbeing. It’s a journey of self-discovery and healing that allows us to identify, acknowledge, understand, hold compassion for, and heal past wounds. It tends to our past garden in order to foster emotional wellbeing in the present.

Integrating inner child work into the AAPI context involves respecting cultural values and honoring familial ties. It’s a journey toward self-acceptance, compassion, and breaking free from intergenerational patterns.

Tips for Tending to Your Garden

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m ready to embark on my inner child healing journey,” here are some tips that you may find helpful:

  • Practice self-compassion: as you begin the journey of self-discovery and healing, remember to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would provide to someone you love. Self-compassion is like gentle rain for your mental garden, fostering growth and resilience.
  • Share your story: break the silence around mental health by sharing your thoughts and feelings with safe and trusted family members or friends. You might find that others are tending to similar blooms in their own gardens.
  • Embrace playfulness: engage in activities that bring out your inner child’s sense of curiosity, joy, and play. Activities like drawing, dancing, and enjoying a moment of silliness can be like sunshine for your emotional garden.
  • Seek a gardener’s help: reach out to mental health professionals who understand the unique flowers and weeds in your AAPI garden. A culturally competent therapist can provide guidance and support as you tend to your mental wellbeing.
  • Celebrate growth: Just like a gardener celebrates new growth, acknowledge your progress and growth along the way. Your growth, no matter how big or small, is worth celebrating.

As you embark on this journey, remember that our gardens are unique and complex. They are filled with challenges and beautiful blossoms. By engaging in inner child work, embracing our cultural roots, and breaking the silence, we can create an inner garden filled with resilience, joy, and healing!

Mental health in Asian American and Pacific Islander populations: Challenges, resources, community voices. NAMI California. (2021, July 6).

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