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Shakti Perspectives: Yunal

I was a late bloomer in understanding the terrain of my mental health and how it anchors itself to your ability to manage all facets of life. As I convince myself that the mental health challenges formed in my upbringing in Australia travels as deep as the Mariana trench, untouchable, there it suddenly appears, at the surface, splashing into me with such force that, sometimes, I can’t swim my way past it. Growing up as a kid, it wasn’t cool to be Indian, but it was acceptable to be Australian, and so, I tried very hard to be more Australian, and less Indian. There’s a connection here. What if the method of my upbringing had unconsciously (consciously?) caused me to distance myself from the South Asian community?

Now, here I am, unveiled, wanting to reconnect with the South Asian community in an effort to respect my heritage, but also to work through my mental health issues, instead of attempting to bury it. I wonder if other South Asian men feel like this or is it just me? Venturing through primary school and secondary school in Australia, mental health was never brought up once in class. The ferocious elephant in the room. Did other young adolescents of similar and different cultures experience this too? Perhaps the yearning to find identity as a young adolescent in my upbringing from both a cultural and generational standpoint is in its predisposition. I wonder if other South Asian men loop the above queries in their head, and when it becomes overwhelming, they stop, and they close. Something I do over and over again. 

The paralytic isolation felt at times nosedives the momentum to reach out to someone. I was recently tipped to reach out to a friend or family member. The verbal/digital release provided a sliver of hope, that working through my mental health was an option, not a quest. Whether it's a text, or a short/long conversation, any form of reaching out to a friend without any expectation provides a feeling that something has been accomplished. 

Self-care is probably the most difficult thing to be proactive about. It took me some time to understand my actions, but I’ve been known to sabotage my mental health as an indirect method of convincing myself that I don’t need self care. For me, a subjective amount of social human interaction, exercise, a balanced diet, and indulging myself in foggy winter walks through the forest assists, wait, no, it is my self care. The harmonious rhythm of the pied currawongs, the faint sound of a chainsaw in the distance, the scuffling of an echidna in the long grass, and the thin coat of burning firewood in the air. It’s truly invigorating. Immerse yourself in nature. The mental health communication channel is evolving into a more open and welcoming space for South Asian men in the human form and the digital form. The desire to connect to these channels as a form of managing mental health may be an advantageous shift for South Asian men. It’s definitely helped me.

My grandfather, whom I was really close with before his passing (bless him) was a Hindu pandit, and provided a piece of advice to me when I was 15 years old that has shaped the person I am today. It’s as follows: Before you go to bed, spend a few minutes thinking about all the decisions you made during the day, whether you think they were the right or wrong decisions, and question yourself on how you can make better decisions.

Yours Sincerely,

Yunal Kumar

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