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The stigma behind mental health

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

In my opinion, the stigma surrounding mental health is extremely prominent in the South Asian community. As a person with an Indian background, I find it very difficult to look after my mental health, which is in part due to the large stigma around mental health in my community.

As someone who has experienced multiple panic attacks and often uncontrollable anxiety, it has been difficult for me to explain to my family the source of these issues. When I have tried, many family members have come to their own conclusions about the cause of the problem, pointing to physical health issues such as a lack of protein and iron, among other things. They do not try to speak about the problems at hand, instead pushing them aside and hoping everything will fix itself. 

Feeling uncomfortable speaking to family members about my mental health only makes things harder, and this won’t change unless the stigma surrounding mental health is tackled and people are willing to listen. The sense of secrecy that comes with this has a negative impact on my mental health, which can often strain my relationship with family members and friends.  

Finding someone to talk to can be difficult, which can worsen feelings of shame. In many communities, the most common tactic when dealing with taboo topics is to sweep everything under the carpet, in the hope that the problem will go away. But this is not a long-term solution. For people with mental health issues, being able to stand on top of our problems and stomp on them, rather than feel buried under them, gives us a sense of control - something we may feel we have lost.

In reality, strength comes from facing what makes us feel vulnerable rather than ignoring it. Sometimes it feels as though showing weakness of any sort is looked down upon in South Asian communities. This is another thing that makes it hard to deal with mental health issues. It is exhausting keeping up a strong façade and pretending that everything is fine, and this feels like just one more weight to carry on our shoulders. 

What makes things even harder is that most people make assumptions, especially regarding the cause of any mental health issues, often without knowing all the necessary circumstances. This can be annoying, but it is important to try to educate people so that they don’t make the same mistake again with someone else who may be in an even more sensitive situation.  

I often find that getting other people involved in a conversation helps, as it means that more perspectives are included, which in some cases can open up minds. People are often more likely to listen to something when it comes from a friend, family member or colleague. So, having even generic conversations about mental health is a good way to get more people involved, while breaking down the stigma and gaining an insight into how the people around you feel about mental health.

Mental health can be a difficult subject for anybody to talk about. I love my community, but sometimes I wish it were easier to have these conversations. If you’re in the same position, just remember that how other people react is not a reflection on you, and always be kind to yourself.

Written by Dhyana Desai

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