Mental health is usually a taboo topic in most of the South Asian communities and the worse part is that this does not change even if they move to western country where people are relatively more open to discussion around the topic. This stigma seems to have carried from one generation to another regardless of the place of birth.
Having lived 5 years in Belgium and over 2 years in UK, I can safely say that the stigma of mental health in South Asian communities is more than in most of the communities around the world. As a Pakistani, South Asian I have seen my friends being hesitant to talk about their mental issues even in UK because the community they were brought up in have downplayed them and signified it as a sign of weakness. In our community people hide these issues in attempts to uphold their reputation and social status. Not speaking about it eventually makes the person alone, lonely, and distant. Members of the community are too afraid to let their family down that they are often willingly to inflict personal harm themselves.
Social and family stigma is not the only reason behind this. Often mental health issues are linked with religion as well. There is a common belief that anyone who going through low mood or depression is often because they are away from religion. We often hear the advice to be more religious and all the mental health will improve.
Being a male, I cannot fully be an advocate of female’s mental health in South Asian communities but from the experience of some of my friends, I can share my observation. If married, females feels this unsaid pressure to not only live to the expectations of their in-laws but also ensure that nothing negative is reflected back to their family back home. All this pressure of being perfect wife, daughter, daughter-in-law adds up to an immense pressure that eventually triggers mental health issues of anxiety, depression, and low mood.
However, I do strongly believe that today’s generation of the community is more educated, informed and understanding regarding the mental health. Let this be a beacon of hope that can eventually bring a change and remove this stigma. Lets us preach our children to be much more open about discussing their problems and be more understanding of the thoughts that might be going through their mind from an early age.