Asian Parent’s Misconception Towards Mental Health & What You Can Do About It
At some point in life, everyone reaches a phase whereby we feel utterly tired of everything in life that may or may not trigger the state of our mental health. Usually, this feeling will pass after a few moments, but for the rest of the not so lucky ones — it stays for a certain period of time which could range from days, weeks to even years.
Having mental health problems is when someone functions at a satisfactory or low level of emotional and behavioural adjustment. It is usually linked to depression, bipolar, suicide, anxiety, addiction, schizophrenia, and more.
Although the society is slowly breaking the stigma to overcome issues relating to mental health, unfortunately, Asians are three times less likely to seek professional help. It’s either we don’t acknowledge it at all or ignore the difficulties until it’s too late.
Feeling like there’s no right to talk about mental health problems
As Asians, when presenting an emotional struggle to our family members or friends, we are often told that we do not understand what struggling is, or that our psychological problems are invalid. It’s like we’re being ungrateful for the life they’ve provided for us.
In most cases, teens and young adults feel guilty sharing their mental health struggles knowing that their relatives faced far more challenging hardships just to survive. However, these types of comments are still unfair, especially when the people affected are simply crying out for help. Our well-being is important and deserves attention — regardless of what else may be going on.
Nobody wants to believe these struggles
Even if our parents care for us, sometimes it’s hard for them to see what is actually going on. This could mean they label our struggles as typical “growing up” experiences, or they dismiss the entire possibility of getting help for mental health. Ignoring problems because they are unpleasant does not make them go away, and it is important for us to continue to ask for what we need.
Reach out to other resources if it’s hard to get through to your parents. This includes teachers, relatives, and guidance counselors who could help you talk to your parents or put you in contact with resources to help.
“Seek help from God”, is what parents will usually say
In many Asian cultures, faith plays a major role in everyday life where we are taught to rely on prayer even when dealing with a challenging time.
On top of that, since suicide is considered sinful, anyone experiencing mental health symptoms or suicidal ideation may be even more afraid to tell others, for fear of being judged. However, mental illness is not a sin, and so those with a condition should not be treated as less than.
Emotional problem is a burden
In many Asian households, children grow up controlling or hiding their emotions. If we’re “too emotional,” we may be perceived as someone who complains too much and doesn’t try to solve anything for ourselves. This often translates to family environments in which silence is a sign of strength and feelings aren’t likely shared.
We may be expected to move forward regardless of how we’re feeling, or risk being perceived as someone who easily accepts failure. But you have to remember, while opening up to a family member may not be an option, receiving guidance and treatment from a mental health professional is not a burden on anyone.
Compounded with the expectations set forth by community standards to excel due to our racial background, we’ve witnessed breakdown after breakdown of bright individuals who could no longer withstand the pressure of looking perfect, acting perfect, and being the perfect child.
Worse, some might even label those affected as crazy or insane, and shun them out to the mental institution without first addressing the problems. The thing is, it is possible to overcome mental health issues, as long as we have a strong support system and we ourselves believe that we deserve to be happy.
More often that not, people who are affected doesn’t even know what’s bothering their mind, which will make them believe that it’s something that they can brush off and hope that it will go away. It won’t. So don’t be afraid to speak out whenever you feel depressed, because holding it in may highly likely send you into a spiral of constant confusion and deepen your suicidal feelings.
In my case, for example — growing up, I’ve always found it difficult to relate to anyone, often felt sad for no reason and addressing my issues to my parents seem to be unfruitful every time. This led me to assume that I was just wired differently than everyone else.
Fortunately, after watching “Girl Interrupted”, a movie based on mental issues, I finally felt that I wasn’t alone in this world as it showcased all of the things I was never able to share with anyone before. As a result, I gathered the courage to see a psychiatrist alone, where he confirmed that I have bipolar disorder. The doctor helped me to identify the source of my problem and surprisingly, it started when I was 10 years old. I was lucky enough to be able to take control of the situation and honestly, I’ve never felt better.
My advice? Seek help and don’t let the depression eat you alive because in the end — it’s all about mind over matter. Even if the world shuts you out, there will always be a place that can help you such as Befrienders Malaysia and Talian Nur.