Understanding Family Connections and Help Seeking Behavior in Chinese American Immigrant Adults who Attempt Suicide

Rose Wong*, 1, Dong Li Hou2, Evaon Wong-Kim1
1 Department of Social Work, California State University, East Bay, USA
2 Kaiser Permanente Union City, USA

© 2015 Wong et al

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distributin, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Social Work, California State University, Hayward, 25800 Carlos Bee Boulevard, Hayward, CA 94542; Tel: (510) 885-4916; Fax: (510) 885-7580; E-mail:



This study explores the influence of beliefs, values and norms in Chinese family culture as they relate to attitudes and beliefs about mental health and mental health services. It examines family and acculturative stressors occurring in the immigrant’s social context on attitudes about suicidal distress and help-seeking behaviors, and focuses on appropriate forms of services for suicidal behaviors among adult immigrants experiencing suicidal behaviors.


The study design is descriptive, using a qualitative approach. Six Chinese American immigrant adults who had attempted suicide participated in semi-structured interviews in Mandarin or Cantonese. The content was analyzed using a constant comparative approach.


Study participants exhibited various reactions to suicidal distress, attitudes about needing help and usefulness and relevance of existing intervention strategies and services that reflected influences of Chinese family culture. Interactions with family members negatively impacted study participants’ attitudes about using services and hindered pathways to care. Acculturative stressors, along with weak family ties and the absence of strong community networks exacerbated the strategies for effective services.


This study raises the question of the efficacy of several Western-culture based service delivery models on help-seeking behaviors on such populations. Furthermore, the study discusses ethnic sensitive approaches with core roles for family, peers and community for supporting those at risk of attempting suicide and linking them to appropriate community-based services.

Keywords: Culture , Chinese, family, help-seeking behavior, immigrants, suicide, qualitative, mental health.