Mental health neglect in South Asian Community


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The lack of data there is regarding the Asian-South Asian communities and mental health speaks for itself and the non-existence importance of mental illness. For decades, the community has viewed mental health as a taboo – one may see that something is not right, but one may never speak about it openly is usually the way it goes. Keeping in mind that for decade’s mental health has been a taboo within the community, I reached out to Lin Fang, an associate professor and the Director of the PhD Program at the Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at University of Toronto to gain a better understanding at why this may be. “There has been a strong stigma associate with mental illness. Similar to individual from other cultural backgrounds, mental health issues with the Asian communities are often seen as personal weakness, rather than a mental health problem. Moreover, due to a stronger collective, family-oriented cultural orientation, individual mental health problem can be seen as a disgrace to their family, which can lead the individuals to deny their mental health issues and refuse to receive services,” said Fang.

Furthermore, other than being a taboo, mental health is also seen to be shameful within the community. A report carried out by Time to Change, a mental health movement based in England involved over 400,000 people and revealed that “They have a fixed psychology, it’s how they’ve been raised, how the community behaves. You do not discuss anything around mental illness because it’s a no-go area”.

The reality is, most of our parents are immigrants who left their mother land and came to a country in hopes to provide a better future for their family. However, the connection between being an immigrant and the neglect that has formed within the Asian-South Asian communities and mental health is immense.

“Immigrants from Asian/South Asian community may experience many stressed associated with the migration, such as difficulties associated with language differences, securing stable income and employment, dealing with unstable living conditions, and having decreased social support. When the individuals are stressed to make the ends meet, they are likely to put their mental health and health needs aside. Even when they recognize the issues and would like to get assistance, they may not know where the resources are and are likely to have difficulties finding providers who can speak their language and understand their experiences,” said Fang.


While the mindset and taboo for mental illness within Asian-South Asian communities cannot disappear overnight, a change can be made and it call comes down to us. We can either continue to be silent and act as if we do not feel pain when in reality; we’re denying the truth rather than accepting it. There is no shame in speaking to a professional about what you are going through, seeking counselling sessions or being on medication. That “reputation” that so many of us try to hold on to is what is preventing us to survive and live the life we all deserve to have.

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