Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Asian American Federation 

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

December 2023

Grant Amount

$150,000 (2021); $200,000 (2019)

Grant Date:

January 2020–June 2022

In New York City, Asian Americans are the only racial group for which suicide is one of the top 10 leading causes of death.

Only 2% of Asian Americans report symptoms of depression to their doctor, compared with a 13% national average. Mental illness is often overlooked and undiagnosed in the Asian-American community, and cultural stigma and a lack of culturally- and linguistically- competent service providers creates barriers to care.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, rising xenophobia, social isolation, and the stressors of financial and food insecurity and housing shortages contributed to the mental health burden of a large proportion of Asian New Yorkers. The political climate, as well as xenophobic rhetoric tied to the pandemic, led to an increase in incidents of bias and violence targeted at the Asian community. The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism noted an 883% increase in hate crimes against Asians in New York City between 2019 and 2021.  

Victims of racially motivated incidents or crimes may experience fear and shock, followed by anger, anxiety, depression, social isolation, and helplessness. Members of targeted groups may also experience mental health burdens even if they have not been personally attacked, and those who want to seek help may lack access to linguistically and culturally appropriate mental health services.  

NYHealth awarded grants to the Asian American Federation (AAF) to raise awareness about the mental health needs of Asian New Yorkers, increase access to community-appropriate care, and support the Hope Against Hate campaign, which helped connect members of the Asian community in New York City with recovery support and mental health services. 

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Launched the AAF Mental Health Directory, New York City’s first online mental health directory where individuals can search for therapeutic care offered in their native language. 
  • Trained nearly 2,000 clinical providers and non-clinical frontline staff on disrupting bias and mistreatment in a health care setting and sustainable ways to support Asian domestic violence survivors.  
  • Conducted 25 situational awareness, upstander intervention, and self-defense workshops in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese to more than 700 community members.
  • Convened mental health roundtable gatherings attended by 52 Asian-serving New York City mental health nonprofits to discuss grief and bereavement services; domestic violence counseling; and mental health support for older adults and victims of anti-Asian violence. 
  • Distributed 20,000 physical copies of Stay Safe from Hate, a safety booklet that outlines self-defense strategies in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Additionally, the online safety booklet received 25,000 views on the AAF website. 
  • Provided testimony at State Assembly and City Council hearings on the mental health needs of the Asian community during the pandemic. As a result, AAF and other advocates secured more than $2.5 million from corporations and foundations and more than $14.8 million in State and City funding to provide community-based safety solutions and victim support, including mental health services, in response to anti-Asian violence amid the pandemic.  
  • Partnered with the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) to bring together representatives from the New York State Department of Corrections, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and numerous nonprofits to discuss long-standing barriers to services for Asian New Yorkers and improve responses to the increased levels of violence against the community.  
  • Conducted Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese language training for nearly 2,000 individuals on community safety, navigating grief and trauma, and physical self-defense training for women and older adults. Additionally, AAF facilitated parent workshops to increase parents’ knowledge about the impact of racism and violence on children’s mental health, provide strategies to support children, and increase understanding of the importance of self-care.  
  • Offered culturally and linguistically competent victim support services to 27 victims, connecting them with reporting assistance, pro bono legal services, and mental health support. In partnership with AAF, Uber donated approximately $18,700 in Uber rides to 657 community members to provide safe and reliable transportation during a spate of subway violence against Asians.  

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: AAF secured a total of $16.8 million in State funding to be sub-granted through 146 grants supporting social services across New York State. These services include direct services, case management, mental health support (both clinical and non-clinical), housing assistance, community education, referrals, and small business support. New York State Office of Mental Health administered $6.801M in 2022, and New York State Department of Health administered $10M in 2023. 

AAF secured New York City funding through the AAPI community support initiative to fund direct services, mental health support, youth programs, racial literacy, and other culturally competent services. AAF received $4 million to support the initiative for fiscal year 2022 and $5.06M for 2023, which were administered by the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development. Additionally, Uber, in partnership with AAF, donated rides to provide safe transportation.