Over the past couple years, South Asian influencers have come together to raise awareness on the stigma surrounding mental health in the South Asian community.
I can say from experience – it’s not until you experience it or witness it firsthand that you can really begin to understand how baseless and misguided the South Asian community can be in their assumptions about depression. I can say this, because I have been on both sides.
Four years ago, I woke up feeling different. I knew what was wrong. I had felt it sneaking up on me for months. Racing thoughts, non-stop sweaty palms, inability to sleep, difficulty getting out of bed. Oh yes, my nemesis depression and PIC anxiety came in 2014 for an extended stay. Unable to halt my life and with no one to take care of me, I immediately went to a doctor and came home with a bottle of antidepressants.
You bet I took the meds as fast as I could to get back on my feet as fast as I could. But, my sense of urgency to be productive didn’t take away the shame and guilt I felt for well….being clinically depressed.
You see, depression, clinical depression is just that: a chemical imbalance. Sure, it is “all in your head.” Because the chemical imbalance in your brain causes your body to ache, your sleep cycle to be ruined and your thoughts to run wild.
Oh, how I wished I could have “just felt better.” The thing is, you cannot just tell your pancreas to produce more insulin. You cannot “just feel better” if you have clinical depression.
But that’s not the narrative we grew up with, right? The narrative we grew up with never addressed depression as a legitimate condition similar to diabetes or heart disease. The distinction between feeling sad and feeling depressed is not one that is familiar to our communities. The narrative I grew up with refused to acknowledge feelings associated with depression: sadness, sense of failure, etc as valid. After all I was a young person with a full-time job and the world as my oyster. What could I possibly be sad about that would lead to me taking a bottle of pills?
Don’t even get me started on the stigma of taking medication and all the hurtful statements I heard about being on antidepressants. As self-aware as I was about the whole ordeal, it still hurt.
Our parents’ generation never grew up with a proper understanding of mental health, its causes and treatment methods. I am glad to see our generation doing it differently.
However, if your parents are willing to listen and learn, open up a conversation and repeat things to them until they understand. First, understand as much as you can about mental health. Personally, Andrew Solomon’s work helped me tremendously when I didn’t know much about depression. His book, The Noonday Demon (basically a public health book on depression and mental health), saved my life. Talk to your parents, friends and peers about what therapy entails and how antidepressants actually work.
Sometimes all it takes is the courage to have a conversation. While speaking to a friend, she brought up an interesting point. “I think part of the problem comes from our generation as well. We call ourselves ‘woke’ and adopt this elitist attitude. Unless someone uses all the right words and phrases, they’re awful,” she said.
If the other person whom we are trying to educate already knew all the right information, we wouldn’t be trying to educate them at all. Our parents, our peers, friends and people will ask us awful questions that are going to be phrased offensively at times. Changing mindsets requires us to face such a situation calmly.
Have the courage to have a conversation and you just might bridge the generational gap.