Shakti perspectives: Vandana (U.K)
What message of support or words of
guidance would you give to young South Asians experiencing mental health challenges?
‘Mental health’ varies from person to person and there’s never one piece of advice or guidance that will work for everyone. I've written a couple of blog posts on mental health in the past, I can give you my own perspective that will hopefully help you or someone else.
I think it is important to communicate to someone how you are feeling and what you are facing. I probably sound like a broken record and you’ve heard this one before but it’s actually so important to speak up. Speak to a supportive and trustworthy friend or family member but if you do not have a confidante, seek medical and professional help. I want to state that getting professional help does not make you weak or incapable; this is a major issue within the Asian community where many young individuals are conditioned to think in this way. You are taking a step in the right direction by getting the correct help for your mental health by an expert who will be able to guide you with the right advice and support.
Secondly, SPEAK TO YOURSELF. It’s important to know and understand yourself first in detail. Speak to yourself to understand what it is that you’re feeling. This will help you unravel your thoughts and assist you to problem solve independently. Another good idea would be to speak to yourself in front of the mirror, are you hurting yourself with your own words or are you emitting positive energy to yourself?
Have you had a personal battle with mental health?
I think I began to pay attention to my mental health once I left university. I began to get mild anxiety and occasional panic attacks and it made me feel horrible.
One thing that really helped me to understand how I was feeling was finding out the root cause of the issue. Allowing me to recognise what was triggering the negative feelings and thoughts and what action I needed to take to solve them.
There’s never a magic switch for these things, big or small, but it’s important to get the correct help.
I remember for a very long time
I wanted to find out whether I had depression or not but I was holding back because I was scared. Again, I think it comes down to us being conditioned to think that having ‘bad’ mental health is a sign of weakness or it’s wrong. I did eventually ask my GP at an appointment and I haven’t been diagnosed with clinical depression but I took a step in the right direction to ensure that I was looking after myself.
What changes would you like to see so that South Asian diasporas have a more positive interaction with mental health?
Firstly, I think mental health awareness begins in the home. Parents should encourage their children to speak up about any underlying issues that they may be facing and build that bridge of communication.
Secondly, I believe that mental health is pushed under the rug within our community until something major happens. Then alarm bells begin to ring for everyone and it really shouldn’t be that way. Mental health awareness should be taught at a young age in schools and in the workplace for adults. Workshops, seminars and talks within our social groups would definitely help raise our community’s awareness and bring about a change for the future.