The second you mention something along the lines of depression, anxiety, psychiatric, bipolar, etc (you get the point), Desi people lose their shit (excuse my language). These are actual things I’ve heard from Desi people in regards to mental health:

  • Are you calling my daughter/son psycho?
  • Psycho hogai hai (She’s become psycho)
  • Mera beta pagal nahi hai (My son is not crazy)
  • Tumhe kyun depression hai (why do you have depression?)

As you can see, mental health, in Desi culture, is never associated with something positive. People often view such mentions as threats to their pride and image. In Muslim households, parents attribute poor mental health as a sign of not being spiritual enough. “Oh you just need to pray more and be closer to Allah,” they say. But what they do not know is that in those low moments, during those darkest hours, the only being we have to turn towards is Allah. And so we pray and pray that just maybe, for once and for all, please God, cure me from this terrible disease. Since there is such a stigma associated with mental health and depression and even a mention of the word will lead to a loud “PSYCHOOOOOOO,” Desi youth never get the necessary professional help they so desperately need.

This despicable attitude towards mental health needs to stop. Mental health is a serious issue, and if Desi youth don’t have their parents to turn to when times are rough, then who will they ask for help?

Deepika Padukone, a famous celebrity in India, recently came out and told everyone about her depression. She also mentioned that people would often remark to her, “you’re so famous and rich, why would you be depressed?” (or something along the lines). That’s just the thing. Why are we equating a successful life to that of a life of happiness? You can have everything in the world, but you can still feel empty inside. You can have that smile plastered on your face, but you can still be stuck in the deepest pit. You can try to pull yourself up from it, but there will also be that lingering creature that holds you back.

India has the highest rates of depression compared to anywhere in the world. It also has one of the highest rates of suicide. Pakistan is not far behind, either. Out of the numbers of doctors that graduate from medical school, only about “0.002 [become] psychiatrists [and] 0.07 [become] psychologists (SOURCE).” That totals to about 340 psychologists in the entire country (SOURCE). The entire nation of Pakistan only has an alarming five hospitals dedicated to mental health. Overall, only 0.40% of health expenditures are spent on mental health facilities.

If you think about, South Asian teens are faced with multitudes of stress. If you’re a girl, it’s the fear of getting married off to a young age, or the fear of not getting married at all due to ridiculously high dowry demands. If you’re a boy, it’s finding a good job, so that you can take care of your family. Even if you’re foreign raised, you may not necessarily have as much stress concerning marriage, but you still have to worry about being getting good grades, going to a good college, and getting a decent job– all to make your parent’s sacrifice worth it. Who cares if you’re truly passionate about art and music? No, you major in biology, chemistry, engineering, business, etc: anything that will get you the dough after you graduate.

Youth in Pakistan face even more stress. We may think our lives are hard, but remember that shooting at the army school in Peshawar? Oh you bet those kids were scarred for life. Can you imagine the emotional trauma they suffered seeing their own teacher being burned alive in front of their eyes? Are they going to get access to mental health facilities? Or will society also call them psycho (EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH SHIT)?

Or how about those kids who constantly witness drones attacking their homes or their neighbors’ homes? They see their mother, father, and grandparents fall victim to these drones. Are you going to say they’re psycho also?

Mental health is a real issue. Now I know most of the scenarios I mentioned above may not affect everyone, but still bullying is prevalent throughout the world. I still remember being called fat, ugly, a bitch, disgusting etc in middle school. I still remember my culture being mocked by my peers. Those scars won’t ever disappear; they will always be a part of me.

So to anyone who mocks mental health and denies someone the care they need, DON’T. Act now before it’s too late. Depression leads to devastating consequences. Let go of your ignorance and just act. You don’t want to wake up one day only to see your child has resorted to cutting themselves.

Some notables: One| two| three

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