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Arokkiyam Perspectives

Growing up mental health and well-being wasn't openly discussed in my family early on. After moving to Australia at the age of 14, I watched my parents focus quickly on assimilating and finding their ground in Melbourne and assumed that pausing and bothering them into discussing my feelings would be too much of a burden. Today I'm very grateful that my parents find value in openly discussing our mental health at any given time. After arriving in Australia my mother became a nurse and my older sister studied medicine, which started our initial conversations and made it easier to unfold the topic within our family. All of this comes down to the fact that south Asians are hesitant to talk about mental health because of prolonged generational trauma. I've discovered that families prefer controlling parents over approachable parents whom you can talk to, confide in, and form bonds with. Now, one of the more encouraging things I’m seeing more of is South Asian parents who opt to be someone their child can turn to while still maintaining certain boundaries. This is the change I'd want to see take place in our community to promote, cultivate, and support mental health dialogues.

Things are quite different now that I'm an adult because I have a sister that I can turn to for mental health help, and my family is gradually becoming more at ease talking about mental health. Don’t get me wrong, having moments where I still feel very alone and lost in my thoughts and feelings occur, but they have also been an important part of my journey. Now I know there is more to look forward to and I know this feeling is an incredibly privileged one to have. 

I believe that having outlets for your creativity is crucial as it allows you to develop something unique and the joy you experience in return is blissful. It’s a style of getaway where you can wonder, explore, observe growth, connect with like-minded individuals, and construct. The opportunity to work on something that brings you joy, and fulfillment is the most significant benefit. When I'm feeling down, I'll most likely visit my sewing machine with some fabric and get immersed in the process of creating.

Everyone has their own coping mechanisms or distractions that they implement to help stay mentally balanced. I believe it’s important to do things that can help elevate your mood. It can be as simple as having a nice long soak in the bath or treating yourself to that extra shot of espresso or going for a walk outside to clear the mind. All in all, the goal is to take all the time you need to be kind to yourself.

Coming from a South Asian background, I know that there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health.  As there are no outward signs of actual ailment, many people don't take it seriously. This, in my opinion, is due to a lack of understanding of how mental illnesses can affect a person's life.

It's extremely challenging when the generations before you don't recognise mental illness as a problem. I believe there should be more genuine conversations on mental health, facilitated by local leaders, that acknowledge its pervasive presence in the South-East Asian community.

Still, it feels like such a taboo subject to speak about, enabling so many people to suffer in silence as a result of being made to feel that it's shameful to ask for help. I also believe that occasionally, because of our South Asian heritage, people (friends, counselors, social services) may not be able to fully grasp our anxieties. Due to their lack of cultural awareness, they can sympathise with us but may not truly understand us. I believe it would be simpler to talk about our issues with people who have a South Asian background similar to ours or who are more understanding of ethnic norms and stigmas.

We as a community need to be more resourceful and open-minded when confronting mental health-related circumstances. People should be encouraged to discuss their issues in our community. In order to provide a secure environment for future South Asians to freely address mental health difficulties without the associated stigma, the dialogue must begin somewhere, somehow.

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