Intersection of suicidality and substance abuse among Asian American young women.

Authors: Hyeouk Chris Hahm, Stephanie Tzu-Han Chang, Hui Qi Tong, Michelle Ann Meneses, Rojda Filiz Yuzbasioglu, and Denise Hien

This article is a literature review that aims to uncover specific factors associated with self-harm and suicidality among young Asian American women and to present the “Fractured Identity Model” as a framework for understanding these factors.

Article is accessible for free at PubMed Central and as a PDF.



The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of the current literature uncovering specific factors associated with self-harm and suicidality among young Asian American women, as well as to present the Fractured Identity Model as a framework for understanding these factors. This paper offers concrete suggestions for the development of culturally competent interventions to target suicidality, substance abuse, and mental illness among young Asian American women.


Empirical studies and theory-based papers featured in peer-reviewed journals between 1990 and 2014 were identified through scholarly databases, such as PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, JSTOR, and Google Scholar.


We identified several factors associated with suicidality among young Asian American women: (1) family dynamics, or having lived in a household where parents practice “disempowering parenting styles,” (2) substance use/abuse, and (3) untreated mental illness(es), which are exacerbated by the stigma and shame attached to seeking out mental health services. The Fractured Identity Model by Hahm et al. (2014) is presented as a possible pathway from disempowering parenting to suicidal and self-harm behaviors among this population, with substance abuse playing a significant mediating role. Research limitations/implications – Our review focused on Asian American women, substance use among Asian Americans, and mental health among Asian Americans. Literature that focused on Asians living in Asia or elsewhere outside of the USA was excluded from this review; the review was limited to research conducted in the USA and written in the English language.

Practical implications

The complex interplay among Asian American culture, family dynamics, gender roles/expectations, and mental health justifies the development of a suicide and substance abuse intervention that is tailored to the culture- and gender-specific needs of Asian Pacific Islander young women. It is imperative for professionals in the fields of public health, mental health, medicine, and substance abuse to proactively combat the “model minority” myth and to design and implement interventions targeting family dynamics, coping with immigration/acculturative stresses, mental illnesses, suicidal behaviors, and substance abuse among Asian-American populations across the developmental lifespan.


This paper provides specific suggestions for interventions to adequately respond to the mental health needs of young Asian-American women. These include addressing the cultural stigma and shame of seeking help, underlying family origin issues, and excessive alcohol and drug use as unsafe coping, as well as incorporating empowerment-based and mind-body components to foster an intervention targeting suicidality among Asian-American women in early adulthood.