Predictors of Mental Health among College Students in Guam: Implications for Counseling

By Ran, Mao-Sheng; Mendez, Ana Joy et al. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, July 2016 | Go to article overview

Predictors of Mental Health among College Students in Guam: Implications for Counseling


Ran, Mao-Sheng, Mendez, Ana Joy, Leng, Ling-Li, Bansil, Bryan, Reyes, Nicole, Cordero, Gem, Carreon, Cheenee, Fausto, Michelle, Maminta, Loida, Tang, Maureen, Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are frequently perceived as model minorities because of their lower rates of poverty and higher education levels compared with other ethnic minorities (Lee, Wong, & Alvarez, 2009). This myth of the model minority is further underscored by research indicating that AAPIs have fewer psychological problems compared with non-Hispanic Whites (Xu et al., 2011). However, previous studies have not taken into account the differences in the prevalence of mental illness among AAPI ethnic subgroups, particularly differences between Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans (PIAs; Ta, Juon, Gielen, Steinwachs, & Duggan, 2008). Although large-scale epidemiological studies have generally reported lower prevalence rates of most psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression, among AAPIs (Gee, Spencer, Chen, Yip, & Takeuchi, 2007), most studies on mental health have combined Asian Americans and PIAs, with the latter group usually underrepresented despite PIAs' considerable diversity in cultures, geographic origins, and demographic profiles (Sentell et al., 2013).

AAPIs are composed of heterogeneous groups characterized by a wide rage of mental health problems and psychological treatment needs (Else, Andrade, & Nahulu, 2007). There is a growing awareness that the diversity and variations in the prevalence of mental illnesses within this ethnic group have been greatly overlooked, particularly in the case of PIAs. In recent studies, PIAs have been identified with significantly high rates of several mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety (Else et al., 2007; Nishimura, Goebert, Ramisetty-Mikler, & Caetano, 2005; Reyes-Salvail, Liang, & Nguyen, 2008). The aggregation of Asian Americans and PIAs, as well as the lack of data on PIAs, may have helped to sustain the model minority myth and perpetuate this ethnic disparity (Ta et al., 2008).

Even less is known about the mental health status among college students in Pacific Island societies. Nevertheless, according to the World Health Organization (2002), nearly one half of young adults have a mental health condition. Thus, the university is a critical context for studying the mental health of young people (Weitzman, 2004); in the U.S. mainland, for example, approximately one half of young adults attend postsecondary education institutions (Wirt et al., 2005). Furthermore, researchers have found increasing rates of psychological morbidity and higher levels of psychological distress, especially depression and anxiety, among college students (Gallagher, Gill, & Sysco, 2000; Stallman, 2010; Zivin, Eisenberg, Gollust, & Golberstein, 2009). For example, cumulative data from National College Health Association surveys indicated that the prevalence of depression in campus communities has risen from 10.1% in 1998 to 15.4% in 2010, revealing a 5.3% increase in the number of college students diagnosed with depression over the past 12 years (American College Health Association, 2001, 2009). However, studies focusing on the mental health of PIA college students are lacking.

* PIAs and the Mental Health of College Students

PIAs are defined as Americans whose ethnic ancestries trace back to the indigenous inhabitants of the three major subregions of Oceania: Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia (Hixson, Hepler, & Kim, 2012). The U.S. federal government created the broad ethnic category of AAPI in the 1970s initially for the purpose of collecting census and demographic information (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). Scholars then widely adopted this classification in the research of ethnic minorities and integrated PIAs into the AAPI ethnic group (Hixson et al., 2012). However, because the AAPI category encompasses 43 ethnic groups who speak more than 100 different languages and dialects (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001), the diversity within this group is likely obscured. …

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