In keeping with SAMHIN’s mission of greater dialogue on mental health in South Asians and highlight the important work of others, we invited Meghana Kakaraparthi, a dedicated SAMHIN volunteer and aspiring neurologist and psychologist, to share about the difficulties of having a conversation with parents about mental health issues.
It was a typical afternoon when I first mentioned my mental state to my mother. I described how I was feeling on a day-to-day basis. I felt unmotivated, tired, sad, and as if there was a rock weighing down my morale all the time. My mom listened to me, but I could tell throughout the conversation that she was shocked. I had always seemed like a happy child, taking life in stride. The idea of me being depressed was foreign to my mother.
She tried her best to give me the advice I needed at the time. “Work hard in school,” she said, “the more you accomplish, the happier you will be.” I later learned that this was a common sentiment shared by other South Asian parents. The logic was sound to my mother because achieving things academically would bring me joy. But my sadness ran deeper than that.
I felt hopeless. My mom, the person who understands everything about me, could not understand how I felt. After the initial conversation, I asked my mom why she thought this was an appropriate response. She told me that she never faced these kinds of conversations in India. Not from her friends, her school, or her family. No one talked about mental health. So, when I came to her to talk about my mental health, she didn’t know how to help me. After looking through articles and learning more about mental health, my mom now helps me so much with my mental health.
This lack of education about mental illness within the South Asian community prevents people from reaching out for help. The first step is to educate yourself. Don’t listen to “Dr. Google.” Find real facts from trusted, authentic resources, preferably with a “.org” or “.gov” at the end. Sitting down with your parents takes a lot of courage and having the words of experts backing you up will build your confidence. Having resources on hand will also help your parents learn if you choose to share them. The next step is to simply to start a conversation. Choose a place and time where you are comfortable. Describe how you are feeling, and how you would like to move forward. It can be intimidating, but only you know what you are feeling.
Parents, you should not be afraid to start a conversation too. As a teenager, if my parents spoke openly about their own mental health, it would have been easier for me to talk to them as well. It can be difficult but doing your own research and communicating with your child is so helpful. Helping your children will allow them to succeed in all aspects of their life and feel joy doing so. Even more, bridging the divide can help not only your kids but all kids in the South Asian community.
By Meghana Kakaraparthi
Meghana is a South Asian teenager that is passionate about encouraging mental health discussions in the South Asian community. She is an aspiring psychologist and neurologist who loves learning about the mind and brain.
Feature image by Harli Marten on Uplash.com.
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