Anti-Asian Attacks Take a Toll on Mental Health

The NYPD has recorded more than 40 attacks so far this year, up from 28 last year and 3 in 2019.

Kayla Steinberg | Tuesday, April 27, 2021


The first big wave of Asian immigration to the U.S. was in the mid-1800s, and with it came hate and racism. Laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 restricted immigration to the U.S. Decades later, during World War II, Japanese Americans were incarcerated in camps. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 peeled back restrictions on immigration, though hate and racism against Asian Americans persisted.

Attacks against Asian Americans in New York have risen dramatically since the start of the pandemic. In 2019, the New York City Police Department recorded three anti-Asian hate crimes. In 2020, it recorded 28. And so far this year, NYPD has logged more than 40 anti-Asian hate crimes. One of them was against 37-year-old Katie Hou, who was attacked while protesting anti-Asian hate crimes.

These incidents have taken a toll on the mental health of many city residents. Hou said she has talked with friends and family about the attack. But some, especially those who are older, have been hesitant to discuss their concerns or seek counseling or other professional help, a reluctance rooted in tradition. They might keep quiet out of a desire to preserve harmony or a fear of “losing your face,” according to Dr. Junhong Cao, a psychologist who moved to the U.S. from China after college.

Cao and other therapists and community organizations in New York have been offering mental health support amid the rise in anti-Asian hate. Meanwhile, lawmakers like Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) are working on hate crimes legislation. Meng, the first Asian American member of Congress from New York, introduced the House version of a bill fighting hate crimes against Asian Americans. The Senate’s anti-Asian hate crimes bill passed overwhelmingly on April 22.


This story is the work of a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Other news organizations are welcome to publish this story as long as they adhere to these guidelines.