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  • Writer's pictureSanah Alban

Mental Health in South Asian Communities

Since it's Mental Health Awareness Month as well as Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I wanted to talk about mental health in the South Asian community. This topic is extremely close to home for me as I've struggled with my mental health for a very long time. The culture I grew up in as well as being a second generation immigrant propagated the issues for me. This blog has been a way for me to shed light on how we can improve our health especially as South Asians, and mental health is such an important aspect of overall health and probably where we should begin, especially since the illnesses are so prominent in our communities.

Unfortunately there isn't enough research on mental health in South Asians and I struggled to find stats to share. More studies are needed and this is also a good indicator of some larger issues at hand such as mental illnesses being undiagnosed in South Asians. This is most likely due to mental health issues being heavily stigmatized in the culture and likely to be dismissed. It's unfortunate that in this day and age South Asians with mental health issues aren't receiving the help they need.

There are many factors that can contribute to mental health problems such as:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry,

  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse,

  • Family history of mental health problems.

As well as the above, factors that impact mental health in South Asians include social/family pressures, family issues like addictions and domestic abuse, trauma from colonialism and wars, colorism, heavy focus on things like body image, marriage and having children, sexism and patriarchal structure, many taboos, strict traditions, rules and religious beliefs etc. For those who have migrated, there'll be issues around immigration such as adjusting to a new environment, financial issues, language barriers, racism, inequality etc. on top of all the cultural issues.

My mental health journey

To start, I was not even aware of my mental health issues for a very long time. I was stressed throughout secondary school, university and work. I was severely depressed as a teenager, feeling like a complete outsider in a mostly white school and having so many rules and restrictions at home. Depression hit me like a brick wall once again when I moved away from home and found out I'd be moving countries. I only realized fairly recently I have crippling anxiety, its not just my personality or nervousness. There is probably some complex PTSD and some kind of attention disorder in there too and some things I don't even know the names of yet!

But I'm so glad that others have been so open about their stories and mental health journeys which allowed me to have an understanding of mine. I’m so glad more people are talking about mental health now but there is still a lot to be done especially in the South Asian community. For me the initial breakthrough was having awareness, just knowing I wasn’t ok. then knowing it's completely ok to not be ok as a lot of people are going through something similar and I’m not alone. Having South Asian and other minority friends was so helpful in terms of cultural understanding and opening up to a trusted friend has always been so helpful for me. Asking for help or just letting people know you're not ok is such a huge step.

Funnily enough I've been in a funk myself recently, with some major life changes and loss of a family member, which is why I haven't been able to post as much. I can feel myself relapsing but not as bad as I used to be. For example I have this weird thing that my left eye swells up anytime I have a major life change or major stressor, but this time round it's only twitching, so I must be doing something right!

Jokes aside I know that the tools and awareness I've acquired from this journey has helped me a lot during this time. I've been taking it really easy on myself, feeling my feelings, I've been transparent with friends and family that I'm not doing ok right now and taking care of myself has been the top priority,

There is a lot to unpack when it comes to mental health and my story (this was very brief) and I'll definitely be sharing more about it in the future. But I hope this post is a reminder that you’re not alone, please take care of yourselves and seek professional and medical help if you need.

Much love to you all x

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