Silence is No Longer an Option for the South Asian Community
By: Kamaljit "Sonya" Virdi, Ph.D. | August 14, 2020
#Breakingthestigma4nima may have appeared on your social media because of the untimely death of Nima Bhakta on July 24, 2020. Prior to her death, she wrote about the South Asian community’s lack of understanding about postpartum depression. Her story humanizes postpartum depression for the community, and I commend her family for their courage to publicize her struggle on social media in an effort to help others.
As a South Asian American psychologist myself, I see the stigma associated with seeking therapy for mental health concerns in our community. Based on my experience, many South Asian clients considered therapy earlier, but hesitated due to a few common misconceptions.
Below I address the top five reasons that may hold you back from therapy:
I should be able to solve my own problems.
When you think about your problems over and over again, it can exhaust you to find no solutions. You might talk to a friend or family member but sometimes the nature of what you want to discuss is so personal and uncomfortable that you cannot talk about it with anyone. Or sometimes talking to a friend or family member does not allow you to process to the depth that helps you. The ability to process with an unbiased mental health professional may help you understand your problems differently.
It means there is something wrong with me.
Because you have a problem does not mean you are the problem. We naturally need support from others at some point and there is no shame in asking for help. Therapy is for ordinary people struggling in extraordinary ways.
My problems are not serious enough to talk to a professional.
Do not worry about how big or small your problem is compared to others. If it keeps coming up, your problem is worthy of further exploration. Therapy can go on for shorter or longer periods based on your individual needs. You and your therapist can discuss the most beneficial approach.
Not knowing what to expect about the process.
The process of therapy is unlike a medical appointment. In the latter, the patient presents a problem and leaves with a solution provided by a healthcare professional. In therapy, you may find relief from sharing in your first appointment but your problems will not be resolved. Therapy takes more time, requiring sustained commitment from both the therapist and the client. Knowing this in advance enables you to engage more openly in the process.
Fear of judgment from parents and loved ones.
Fear of judgment is a common fear, and I hope that it does not hold you back from getting the help you need. I want to provide you with some thoughts on navigating this concern. First, you can choose to tell your friends and family that you are in therapy if and when you feel comfortable. Note that minors will need parental consent to attend therapy. Second, some of my South Asian clients state that their parents showed more support than expected. While there is no guarantee that your family will respond in supportive or encouraging ways, therapy may prepare you to share with your family that you are in therapy, and may enable you to cope with their response whether it is supportive or not. Third, because I have worked with many South Asian clients, you might find that someone you know has attended therapy too or has considered it at least.
I hope this information helps you to consider therapy for yourself when you need it or recommend it to others whom you think might benefit. By acknowledging mental health concerns, we can begin to talk about them and learn when to ask for help. If you or someone you know needs additional support, please contact us at Therapy Changes.