Shame, stigma, it’s what every person with a mental health condition has to face at some point in their journey to recovery. But arguably none more so than within the Asian community where talk of mental health is still sometimes a taboo subject.
People have a fear of the unknown and some communities still are fearful of mental health and the embarrassment it can cause within their community. I can relate to this as having suffered with recurring depression and psychosis, I have fought for my family to acknowledge the fact my condition exists and also is nothing to hide. Talking about it helps and that is the premise of Time to Change’s new video for the Asian Film Festival. In it a young girl is seen to reassure her mother that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to mental health and that all households are affected or may know someone who suffers with a mental health condition.
Parties, wedding receptions can typically be a time of anxiety for families living with mental illness. Such questions arise as ‘what will people think?’, ‘what will they say?’ and ‘will they notice my daughter is behaving oddly?’ These are the questions I think my family asked themselves as I attended family weddings whilst unwell. One wedding was particularly an awful experience for us all as it was the first time I became unwell and it was at the very early stages of diagnoses. I remember acting very hyper at the wedding and only a select few of my close family knowing the seriousness of what was going on in my life. I will never forget my dad’s look of worry and at not knowing how to handle the situation.
Fortunately, years have gone by and having had 2 more episodes of my illness, a lot more people in my community know about my experience and what we as a family have been through. No one to my knowledge has treated me any differently since realising I had a mental health condition. If anything we have been met with empathy and confessions of how mental health has affected other families. A problem shared is definitely a problem halved and I have always found that honesty is the best policy. My condition does not rule my life and nor should it. I am happy to join in family occasions and celebrate like everyone else and I am blessed to say I now have a family that embraces this change.
The best thing for any family to do in a situation like the one expressed in Time to Change’s video is to be honest. Mental health may not always be easy to talk about but at least acknowledging it exists can help reduce the shame and stigma. It also is the best thing to do for the individual suffering because like someone who has cancer or a heart condition, they deserve some empathy. It’s time for people to not be afraid what others may think or say and talk about mental health. It’s time to talk, it’s time to change.