It’s been over a month since Mental Health Awareness week and since I posted this image and caption on Instagram about my personal mental health issues. It took me a good week to pluck up the courage to post it after umming and ahhing whether this felt too personal to share. The reason I ended up posted it was because I wanted people to get a glimpse of the real me. I wanted to share something in the hope it will help one person reach out and get help and how it’s frowned upon in Asian communities.
I’m not going into the reasons behind my mental health issues, but more so my experience in dealing with them. My mental health issues included depression, anxiety, panic attacks and loneliness as well as self-harm and feeling suicidal. All this was over a ten-year period. I felt so low I was prescribed anti depressants, they made me angry and feel even worse so i stopped. A lot of it was from not being able to talk to anyone about things that were troubling me or experiences i couldn’t understand. South Asian families don’t really communicate about things like this.
Coping with these issues, especially within south Asian communities, is difficult. We feel our families won’t understand and will just brush it off. My parents never understood anything about mental health until we as kids started speaking about it not too long ago. The fear of them not understanding or brushing it off as ‘you’ll get over it’ makes us not want to approach them. Either that or it’s like someone has done ‘kala jadoo’ (black magic) on you! We can’t just blame older generations for not understanding mental health. People my own age being rude and unsympathetic to/about people that are going through problems. As someone who has been through these things to hear someone not even try to understand and be so ignorant.
Pressure from families and society doesn’t help either. We’re told we should be a certain way, be thin (but not too thin), dress in the latest fashions, marry, have kids etc. This extends in Asian communities to pressure to achieve good grades, comparisons to aunty and uncles’ kids, log kya kahenge (what will people say) and SO much more! Then you have the whole in between scenarios of trying to fit in with those around you which is a whole different ball game!
Anyway, with mental health recently making the news more regularly, I wanted to use my experience for people from both the dealing with mental health and how to help. Here goes….
COPING WITH MENTAL HEALTH FROM THE INSIDE
From a personal experience, the worst feeling i had was feeling alone, rejected and that I was never good enough. A lot of this from expectation from my culture and society. It’s only over the last few years I have become happy with myself as a person and accept who I am. There will always be good days and bad days but thankfully, mostly good now and I’ve learnt to deal with the bad days as and when they come.
If you’re going through any issues, these are some things that helped me.
- Get help – go to see your GP or open up to a close friend that you trust if you don’t feel like you can speak to your family. There are plenty of telephone helplines and online forums which provide help too. My favourite blog to read was this one.
- Distract yourself – find something you enjoy and do that. I found crafts and gym helped me focus and take my mind of things.
- Write it down – this can help get things off your chest, actually see what you’re dealing with and then you can process things slowly
- Find an alternative – if you suffer from self-harming, find an alternative, safer form such as ice cubes or elastic bands
- Take a break – it’s OK to take time out, a change of scenery and get away from it all. It might help you see things clearer. Go for a walk or stay at with family/friends in a different town for a few days.
COPING WITH MENTAL HEALTH FROM THE OUTSIDE
Seeing a someone you’re close to deal with mental health issues can also be difficult. Not knowing what to say or how to behave with them or even what to do so here’s a few things that might help.
- Check in – check in regularly with the person so see how they’re doing. They might not have spoken to anyone all day and it would also be a good distraction for them. It can just be about yours/their day, silly things, things you’ve see or read but mainly to show you’re there.
- Be there – listen, reassure, calm and be patient with them. They may not even know themselves how they’re feeling and may be confused.
- Never tell someone to get over it! – This is the worst thing you could ever say. Mental health isn’t something you just get over.
- Never gossip about it – If someone talks to you about their problems, don’t spread with others unless they want you to. They spoke to you in confidence and it can be a big knock back if they found out.
- Don’t leave them – If you feel the person isn’t safe on their own, stay with them until they feel better. If nothing is improving or you think they may get worse, call the emergency services for help. DO NOT leave them on their own.
Here’s a few websites that might be useful:
Mental health can affect anyone, no matter what age, race, gender or whatever you are. We all walk our own paths, what might not bother one person, can significantly affect another. We don’t know what the person next to us has been through so it’s important to keep this in mind and not judge. I hope even a little word or paragraph helps you or someone you know.