WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – As FOX 44 News continues to honor Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we also recognize the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

Jaja Chen is an Asian-American licensed clinical social worker, supervisor, small business owner and therapist. She is working to de-stigmatize and shine a spotlight on mental health in the AAPI community.

Jaja Chen.

“Gaman” in Japanese means “to endure with fortitude and dignity.” This grin-and-bear-it ideology runs rampant in the Asian-American community as a whole – and when it comes to mental health, seeking help is oftentimes not an option.

“That’s actually a trauma response, you know? To view it as like, ‘Okay, we don’t do emotions,'” Jaja said. “Many of our parents, or our background, you know, has a trauma response or stigma still towards mental health.”

Shame and embarrassment force many to struggle in silence, and symptoms are typically dismissed, denied or neglected altogether.

Jaja is the co-owner of Cha Community – a boba tea café in Waco and Temple.

“As an Asian-American-owned business, being able to share our culture, I think, really represents just the way to live out the legacies that my immigrant parents gave to us, coming here to the U.S.”

Jaja also uses her work as a mental health therapist to help fill a void and offset the taboo among Asian-Americans.

“Especially because there’s just not that many Asian-American therapists in Texas,” Jaja says. “Sometimes there can be the myth. I know, amongst a lot of immigrants, that therapy is for Americans in the sense of Caucasians.”

According to the American Psychological Association, Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to take action on their mental health. All the while, cases of mental health issues in this group have been on the rise.

“We need to have therapists who are competently trained and understand the dynamics of the culture,” Jaja explains. “If folks can’t even relate to the therapists, then it can be hard to be vulnerable or to open up.”

And the “silent Asian” often pays the price. Speaking up – and speaking out – needs to be a mission in the AAPI community.

“I know many Asian-Americans can feel like our history is invisible. Instead of just hiding or diminishing our story, recognizing, hey, our story is important,” Jaja said. “And it’s something to be celebrated, and is worthy of being shared.”

Awareness and access are the first steps and recognizing that you are not alone.

Below are some resources on Asian-American mental health, and also how to reach Jaja: