“My sister killed herself when she was 18. We both dealt with depression during high school, the pressure of securing a financially stable job right after college, and the unreasonable expectations to do well in school, where anything below an A was unacceptable. Our older brother has always been a Dean's list, perfect GPA, and top 10 student throughout high school, undergrad, and med school. Neither of us knew what we wanted in life, but neither of us wanted to choose or have our paths chosen for us. We wanted our lives to mean something; we wanted a journey like we often saw in anime growing up. Instead, our parents decided what we would study in college for us, and if we didn't stick with their decisions, they would financially cut us off and not allow us to use the college funds they had set up for each of us. I often saw it as having one foot in the grave, but nonetheless, when I went to college, I studied what my parents wanted me to study, but only because I was good at math. Any ambition I had to study something else was immediately smothered.
My third year in college was the last year my sister was alive. She's the youngest, and I suppose watching her two older siblings get through high school and college made her want to do better as well. She had a little sticky note above her desk where she wrote "Don't disappoint [my name] and [brother's name]". She studied so hard everyday. I often teased her that she studied too hard: I rarely studied in high school and got out just fine, though I was just an average A/B student. There was one assignment that she had failed, and I think that's what pushed her over the edge. She saw herself as worthless, stupid, never going to amount to anything, unsuccessful. I wish I could tell her about my first quiz in high school where I got a 52. I wish I could tell her about how I ended up with a D in biology in college, how I struggled to end with a C in most classes, and how despite all that, I'm still the shameful owner of a piece of paper that tells me I have a degree. She died 4 years ago. So much can change in 1 year, I wonder where she would be in 4? My dream was for my sister and I to live in our own apartment together. I wanted her to be my maid of honor if I ever got married. I talked to her almost every day, and now I still struggle to talk to anyone about my true feelings. I find myself feeling lonely every night. I dream about her sometimes, and they're the best and the worst dreams. I cry often because I don't have her here anymore, and I never will. 4 years and the pain of losing my sister hasn't really stopped. I don't really talk about it to any of my friends because they don't understand, or I don't want to make anyone else suffer with me. I don't talk to my brother or my parents about it either. It took me 3 years to find a therapist that I felt like I could safely talk to. I don't make a lot of new close friends anymore. I still flinch when I hear the word "suicide", and my mood will go to 0 when I hear people joke about killing themselves. My sister and I never seemed like we were close. We were constantly fighting and never hugged each other. I guess it's true when they say you never know what you have until you've lost it. A part of me died that day along with her. I still struggle with my own mental health and find it hard to help others when I can't even help myself at times. But take it from someone that knows the aftermath of suicide: please don't kill yourself.
My Asian parents and relatives have a hard time grasping the concept of mental health. When I started taking Lexapro, my father was vehemently against it. He told me "It's all in your head. Just stop thinking about it, and stop thinking about being sad." I personally believe that's just as bad as telling anyone with an illness that it's just in their head as well. There also is a stigma that if you're not fearless and determined, you are weak. It's such a shameful thing for my parents to admit 2 of their kids suffer(ed) from depression, and insist that it is our own faults.
The lack of diversity among mental health providers and cultural competency is sad in itself. The majority of therapists in the pool of North Texas are white, older therapists. If we're sorting by coverage with insurance, that pool gets minimized instantaneously. There are very very very few Asian therapists, and the 2 that I have seen, came off in exactly what you would expect an Asian parent to say. "Maybe your friends aren't the ones you want to have around forever, but just forget about them, they aren't important, focus on your health and career." The 3 white therapists I have seen were older and Christian. While I have no qualms about Christianity, I myself am not Christian and do not feel comfortable with religious therapy. I finally clicked with a younger white lady. I pay for therapy myself. My parents do not believe that talking to someone for an hour a week will make anything better. They ask me to talk to them instead, but that usually ends in a disaster. Another issue I had was when I was helping a friend find a therapist for an Asian mother of a mentee she had. While I recommended my therapist or finding someone who had experience with adolescent teens, the Asian mother voiced her concern of young therapists not having enough experience. It infuriates me that there is a barrier between a child and mental wellness being decided by Asian parents who know nothing of the struggles of mental health. Most of my friends and I, being second generation immigrants, we often get guilt tripped by our parents telling us they came to a foreign country with little to no money and a language handicap but have worked their backs off and become successful. They compare their hardship with our struggles and minimize the impact these have on our daily lives. Asian parents need to be more open and willing to allow their child to seek help and not be afraid to ask. It only drives a wedge into the relationship to be denied help, and breaks trust. While I know my parents still disagree with me with what helps with my mental health, I appreciate that they stay silent about it rather than belittle me. Don't deny or minimize your own feelings in fear of your parents or because you believe other people have it worse. Please get help, and don't give up if something or someone doesn't work for you.”
Growing up in a Latinx household you hear about illnesses such as Cancer, Diabetes, High blood pressure, etc. However, there is a lack of education when it comes to mental health, and because of this there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health in the Latinx community. For example, if you sleep in too long you are considered lazy. If you are sad or self-harming you are considered to be an ‘attention seeker’. I really noticed the impact of stigma first hand in my own family. When my cousin was diagnosed with depression my family never really understood her. She was often told things like she just needed to change and choose to be happy instead of sad. Even though they were not educated on mental health they felt as if they knew what was best for her, and in the long, this contributed more to her declining mental health. It was hard watching my cousin continue to struggle and it was even harder to watch my family judge her which only resulted in her pushing them further away. Throughout her journey she has had multiple suicide attempts and continues to struggle with her mental health. This has not only hurt her, but our family also. I tried to help her by bonding with her and being there for whenever she needed someone.
It wasn’t until I found my internship at NAMI NTX was I able to realize I could help in more ways than just bonding. I began to serve as a mental health advocate for her by bringing members of my family to NAMI to learn more about mental health conditions. I brought her mother in to speak with one of our Spanish Family to Family teachers who was able to connect with her and share her story. Because she was able to connect with someone else in the Latinx community she was able to put away her own misconceptions about mental health conditions. Since then my aunt has been open to learning about her daughter’s struggle with mental health and how to be there fore her.
I have spoken with many individuals throughout my time at NAMI and have learned something new from every person I have encountered. A piece of advice that has really resonated with me was that “Mental health is a lifelong condition and although you can’t cure it with the right medication (if necessary), psychologist, and support you can have a better quality of life.”
Because of my own experiences in my community I have realized just how much stigma can keep someone from getting the proper mental health care. When it comes to medication because they do not understand the purpose of medication relating to the body they feel as if they can eventually become addicted. Therefore, people like my cousin can be influenced by their family members to not take their medication even if it is necessary. In addition to stigma serving as a barrier to receiving proper mental health care communication has been one also. My family’s first language isn’t English there for every day communication can be challenging. Coupled with lack of education regarding mental health and potential miscommunication between my family and the medical provider this often makes seeking help very difficult for my family. Because my family’s native language is not English this often causes embarrassment for them when they do not fully understand what someone is saying. Stigma and a language barrier make it easier for families like mine to just not seek help.
Through my own personal experiences with mental health in my family NAMI has inspired me to spread awareness and continue to advocate for mental health in my own community. Because I am aware of barriers to care such as a language barrier, I dedicated my time at NAMI to raising awareness and furthering education in the Latinx community. I did things like translate our education flyers to Spanish, connect with our Latinx callers, and shared my story with others. By sharing my story, I hope to continue spreading awareness in the Latinx community. By sharing our stories, providing the proper education, and support we can work towards ending the stigma in our own communities’.
“When I was 15, I started having differences with my parents and family. Until then, I had never spoken out differently against my culture or ever expressed a desire to be different from my parents expectations. However, being educated and learning about equality made me want to learn about things my own way. I started incorporating my culture with western ideas, and I began to date, go out with friends and pursuing my own career path. This didn't stand well with my parents. They disliked the way I dressed, the fact that I was dating and they wanted me to stick to their idea of what life should be like. I expected this, but I didn't know to what extent they would actually try to stop my "acting out." They restricted my phone privileges, didn't let me go out with friends or buy any clothes I liked. You might think this was just a spoiled child not getting her way for once, but it was more like a repression of my freedom and expression. They made me see a therapist because they believed something was wrong with me because I was dating someone. Once, I wanted to go to an event with friends and they insisted on tagging along. When I told them they were being disrespectful and they should let me have some freedom, they called non-emergent cops and had them read my rights to me, which were that I didn't have many until I turned 18. Eventually, they decided they wanted to move back to India due to issues with our citizenship with the US and so that I would learn the "values" my parents did. I was diagnosed with depression, and I once attempted to take my life. I'm no longer like this anymore. I am happy, and my parents and I are on better terms. I have never forgiven them for their intrusion and disruption of my life. They've gotten better at understanding their roles as well as their mistakes too, and I understand that they were trying to do what they thought was best for me, but I no longer abide by their rules. I dress however I would like to, hang out with whomever I want and I make my own choices. I've made it clear they no longer have a say in my life.
I've faced a lot of issues regarding barriers to care. Many people, including my parents, don't entirely believe in mental illness. With a lot of time and education, and my pursuit of a degree in psychology has helped them understand that mental illness is a real thing despite age, gender, race or any attributes and it can happen to anyone. cultural competency. It is extremely difficult and frustrating to try and explain your cultures and traditions to a practitioner or counselor who doesn't understand. People in India related too much to what my parents would say, and people in the United States didn't understand my background. There is no diversity and little culture among counselors in the US (in my experience). I've never felt like I interacted with an impartial therapist whom I related to until a year ago.
There are so many aspects of minorities and mental health care which need to be improved upon. Our mental health is important. It affects our daily functioning and can have a more serious effect in the long run. One of the most important things is to improve the diversity and cultural competency of mental healthcare providers everywhere. Issuing cultural training programs and understanding of diverse backgrounds goes a long way. Raising awareness of mental health and educating minorities about the impact of mental health is really important. Many people don't understand mental health conditions and can be very dismissive of them. I wish I had interacted with someone who understood what happened properly and could give me solutions that I could implement in my life.”