There are many topics in the South Asian community that are disregarded for a number of reasons because they are believed to bring “embarrassment or shame to the family.” Major topics like depression and suicide are dismissed because a vast majority of people are unwilling to address them. An overwhelming number of people in our communities have undiagnosed depression and are afraid to admit that they may have it in fear of being alienated by a community that does not believe in the scientific evidence that it exists. Ignoring the FACT that many are living with depression will not make depression go away. Instead it may manifest into something even deeper and heart breaking like causing many to die by suicide.

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To the South Asian community: Calling people “attention seekers” or “troubled” or telling someone to “stop and be happy” is not the way to go about someone’s mental state, it just makes you part of the problem.

There is a common misconception within the South Asian community that a person with depression is “a troubled person that cannot be helped.” This couldn’t be further from the truth as depression is quite common, and can be treated properly if one feels comfortable enough seeking out the proper help. Sadly, the topic of mental health is often dismissed at home, and parents are constantly silencing their own children from addressing these topics. It even goes as far as parents ridiculing the idea of therapy to where children don’t feel comfortable enough seeking help even in older age. The number of families that don’t provide their children with a safe space or option to seek out proper help is astonishing.

How many more people need to die by suicide before parents start opening their eyes and realizing that this is a widespread occurrence? Preventing your children from seeking out help only harms their mental state further, and they may feel confused or ashamed on top of the influx of emotions they already feel in dealing with depression.

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Common and inappropriate phrases in a South Asian household:

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“Everyone gets sad sometimes.”
“What are you sad about? We have given you everything.”
“You are only like this because you don’t pray enough.”

Parents don’t realize that in getting defensive, they are actually invalidating the feelings of their children who are merely trying to turn to them about a concern in mental health. Whether or not you believe suicide is forbidden in the name of culture or religion, it doesn’t erase the fact that it is one of the leading causes of death in society, and the rates are only increasing. We have the power to help people in multiple ways before it gets that far.

When someone commits suicide in the South Asian community it is often covered up (this omits the denial stage of grief, because in dealing with loss, denial is completely normal for a certain period of time). Unfortunately, rather than finally acknowledge the problem people will blame everything but the root cause: untreated depression. If we educate ourselves and go on to educate the generations to come, maybe we can help them before they are left to deal with their mental health untreated.

Things we can do as a community:

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  • Start openly addressing depression. It is common and there is no need to feel ashamed.
  • Look up the signs to better be able to assist those in our communities
  •  Remember that ignoring the signs and cries for help does not make depression go away
  • If you see someone suffering alone, please help them.
  • Understand that some people are sadly not able to turn to their own families when it comes to addressing mental health
  • Understand some people are scared to seek help because their families have deterred them from the option of therapy
  • Offer to be there for people only if you are able to make the commitment, and reach out to people in your communities you believe are suffering.

The sooner the South Asian community comes together to combat depression, the sooner we can possibly help those desperately reaching out or suffering in silence. We as a community have the power to help one another. I will never understand why our time doesn’t always go toward helping each other. South Asian Community: please open your eyes, break the cycle, and start helping our people.

(I want to address that depression is seen in every race, religion, and community of people- this is not solely a problem in the South Asian community. However, being South Asian I can only speak about the experiences within the same community I have grown up as a part of)