“Isolation and struggle in a foreign land” The mental health of the elderly Asians has attracted attention after the serial shootings in California

- Politics - January 28, 2023
"Isolation and struggle in a foreign land" The mental health of the elderly Asians has attracted attention after the serial shootings in California
"Isolation and struggle in a foreign land" The mental health of the elderly Asians has attracted attention after the serial shootings in California


The recent spate of shootings in the United States has stung the Asian community. The suspects in these two shootings were all Asian elders. While mourning the dead, it has also drawn attention to the mental health of older Asian immigrants, who may have suffered psychological trauma in their hometowns and fallen into a new round of isolation and struggle in the United States.

The gunshots first broke the Chinese New Year celebration atmosphere in Monterey Park near Los Angeles. 72-year-old Asian suspect, Huu Can Tran walk into a ballroom in the city on New Year’s Eve (January 21) and shot dead 11 people. Aged 57-76, including immigrants from Taiwan, China, and the Philippines. Huu Can Tran be found the next day having committed suicide in his van.

Then on Monday (January 23), in Half Moon Bay, 30 kilometers away from San Francisco, Zhao Chunli, a 66-year-old Chinese citizen, pointed a gun at colleagues and former colleagues who worked at a local mushroom farm, killing seven people. The Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco confirmed on the 27th that five Chinese citizens were among the dead. Zhao Chunli has been arrested by the police and charged with multiple felonies.

Law enforcement officials said that the two suspects had different motives for seeking violence, either personal disputes or workplace disputes. But judging from the background, they are all old Asians who have reached retirement age. They came to the United States away from their homeland, used guns to open fire on fellow Asians, and finally embarked on a road of no return.

Asian-on-Asian violence may have taken a bigger toll on a community battered by hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some experts say more attention should be paid to the mental health of older Asian Americans.

Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, a Chinese Democrat from New York state, tweeted: “We don’t know the motivation yet, but I wonder if there is a stronger network of mental health and social services, would things be different. Yes, it’s about gun safety laws, yes, it’s about stopping Asian hate, but it’s also about unresolved trauma in the lives of older Asians.”

unresolved trauma

According to the analysis, the reasons for the mental health problems of many elderly Asians include not only their own experience but also the challenges they face when entering the new environment in the United States.

For first-generation Asian immigrants, especially those from war-conflicted areas, there is often psychological trauma. Depression and loneliness are also major problems. Their limited English skills make it difficult to broaden their interpersonal channels, and there are also generational differences between them and their children who grew up in the local area.

Sylvia Chan-Malik (Sylvia Chan-Malik), an associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, told VOA that the mental health problems of older Asians are often neglected when they are young because they are busy making ends meet. It wasn’t until retirement that problems began to emerge.

“You can have a lot of trauma and even issues around depression and anxiety that you never really address because you’re always working or trying to achieve something, trying to just move forward, and then all of a sudden you don’t have to,” Malik said. Going to work, your home, by yourself, and you’re feeling depressed or sad or unhappy in a way you haven’t felt before.”

Raymond Chang (Raymond Chang), president of the Asian American Christian Cooperative, believes that Asian men are usually regarded as the main source of family wealth. As they grow older and their income declines, their sense of loss increases significantly.

Raymond Zhang told VOA: “I know that many seniors in the Asian American community are struggling, thinking that they are a burden to the family financially, which is very challenging. In a society that values ​​’productivity,’ Your ‘productivity’ declines with age.”

Hate crimes against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the mental and economic pressure on Asian elders. They generally do not go to public institutions for help. Many people do not speak the language and do not have food that meets their eating habits.

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