By Bisleen Attli
Mental health awareness has grown significantly over the past few years as more people understand the complex interplay between mental and physical health needed to achieve optimal wellbeing. Despite this increase in awareness, there still exists a taboo in society associated with mental health.
I have been personally affected by this taboo as a member of the South Asian community, where mental health problems are not openly discussed for fear of being shamed or considered an outcast. It took me a long time to openly admit that I needed help because I was afraid of what my loved ones would think of me.
Why the Stigma?
The stigma surrounding mental health in the South Asian community stems from traditional beliefs as well as ignorance around this topic. In the South Asian community, people live closely intertwined with others and feed off each others’ experiences. This creates pressure to uphold an image of yourself that looks respectable and honorable to others. In addition, even
language creates a barrier because of the lack of words in South Asian languages required to capture the totality of mental illnesses. With this combination of factors, one can see why this stigma exists in the South Asian community.
What is the best way to combat stigma? Education. Continue reading to understand the causes and symptoms of mental illness and learn the next steps necessary to ensure that you are contributing to the acceptance of mental illness.
Causes of Mental Illness
Mental illnesses do not stem from a single cause. Instead, they are a result of the interaction between a number of different biological, environmental and social factors. Biological factors include an individual’s genetic make-up, which can place them at a higher risk to develop a specific mental illness. They could also include pre-existing medical conditions that come with a psychological burden. However, it is important to note that a higher
risk does not guarantee an illness. By prioritizing your health and incorporating the right lifestyle factors, anyone can prevent a mental illness from occurring.
Environmental factors include severe psychological trauma like war, or sexual and physical abuse. They also include our home and work environments, along with technology that significantly influence our day-to-day tasks. Whereas social factors refer to our support networks and the amount of stress we experience. It is through the combination of these factors that mental illnesses manifest in some individuals, and not others.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
The key to ensuring a positive outcome from a diagnosed mental illness is early intervention at the onset of symptoms with the appropriate help. These symptoms can include but are not limited to:
Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Strong feelings of anger or sadness, or extreme highs and lows (mood swings)
Delusions and/or hallucinations
Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
If you or someone you know might be experiencing any of these symptoms, then it is time to get extra support!
It is important to understand that mental health affects everyone and plays a critical role in our wellbeing. The stigma around mental health issues can be reduced by making it a part of everyday conversation. We need to focus on talking about mental illness instead of ignoring the topic. Not only that, but we also need to stop shaming people who are dealing with mental health problems as that will only worsen their condition.
The key to helping anyone is to become self-aware and educate yourself about the topic with an open, compassionate mind. People develop mental illnesses through no fault of their own and they should not be blamed. Together as a community we need to unite and encourage this important discussion to truly support individuals who are suffering from mental illness.
About the author
Bisleen Attli is a second-year medical student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine who is passionate about inspiring others to achieve their best mental and physical health. You can reach Bisleen on her Instagram @bisleenattli or her website http://www.bempoweredbyb.com.