Mental health and the Asian community
Mental health - a subject that, if mentioned, can bring shame and fear to the Asian community. Research done by some leading mental health organisations shows that mental illnesses are a taboo subject for the Asian community and discussing any psychological illnesses is uncomfortable for the majority of the population due to the stigma associated with it.
Unlike Western culture, which focuses on individualism, Asian culture takes a more collectivist approach towards the subject. Ironically, when it comes to mental health, it is a private matter and must not leave the four walls. Much of the lack of understanding typically comes from the older generation in most families, and there seems to be a growing understanding within the younger generations as mental health awareness increases.
I have spoken to people within the community about this subject and there seems to be a concerning lack of awareness and knowledge. When you mention the word ‘Mental’ it is often taken literally and is assumed that someone with a ‘mental illness’ is unable to function in all areas of life. A lack of awareness has sadly led to some negative and disdainful attitudes.
I recently registered with The Samaritans and started a fundraising page as I felt a responsibility to speak about the matter and wanted to raise awareness. I have previously been a listening volunteer with The Samaritans and, working in mental health, I noticed that the number of people in the Asian community accessing any mental health services was very low.
Due to social and cultural expectations, people seem to be less open-minded and avoid conversations around this topic – even though every one of us at some point struggles with emotions and well-being.
Mental health is real, but is unseen and unheard – it is deeply felt by those who experience it.
How we feel, think, behave and act is mental health. It includes our emotions, how we relate to others and how we make choices. Simply feeling happy or sad is mental health.
Regardless of age, race, social or financial status, we all have ups and downs and perceive our individual experiences differently. How we manage stress and how we contain ourselves is mental health.
Most believe that if someone they know is suffering with poor mental health, or has a condition, acknowledging it would make it worse as they would ‘feel it more’, or they will become conscious which may get in the way of recovery. It is to some extent believed that ignoring the problem will solve it.
Mental health doesn’t work this way; it needs to be acknowledged, talked about and addressed. But how will the community do that without awareness of the subject? The community needs to understand what happens in the heart and the mind of someone who has a mental health condition.
I would encourage open and honest conversations around this topic with younger and older generations to increase awareness and understanding and to help remove the societal stigma.
So, I will start with myself – I battled with depression for 10 years. I am a depression survivor. What’s your story?
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