By: Fariha Newaz, LCSW, CADC
Going to therapy does not make you crazy, it does not mean that something is wrong with you. But in my culture, being South Asian American (Americans of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, etc. descent), it is not discussed. We don’t talk about depression, anxiety, or the fact that sometimes life is just really hard and overwhelming. That we might be lacking motivation or focus. Sometimes within our culture, we are given the message that if you don’t talk about it, it goes away. Or even that it does not exist. But the truth is that we do get sad and overwhelmed, because we are human and life can be hard. It means that sometimes you just need someone in your life whose sole purpose is to listen to you and to help you figure out what you need to figure out. People go to counseling for numerous reasons, but the bottom line is that they just want something to be different than what it is. They want to make a change to improve something in their life. Therapy is not something to be afraid of and it does not mean you are crazy.
When I was in college my parents lived in another state and I would visit on breaks. There was another family within our community. I was not very close with them, two of the kids were in high school and I was the “too cool kid” in college. I was back at school when my mom called and said one of the kids committed suicide and left a note talking about how sad he was and how lonely he was. It was pretty devastating. I have always wondered, if that kid went to therapy, had someone to talk to so he wasn’t so lonely, would he still be alive? The truth is, I really don’t know. What I do know is that everybody needs somebody to talk to.
“An article in India West reported findings of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) that “a higher percentage of South Asian Americans, particularly those between the ages of 15 and 24, had been found to exhibit depressive symptoms. The article also pointed out a higher rate of suicide among young South Asian American women than the general US population. Also, Young South Asian American women have a higher rate of suicide than the general U.S. population, noted the study, adding that family conflict, anxiety and stress were precursors to depression and suicide in this community. Conversely, South Asian Americans are the lowest users of mental health services because of the perceived cultural stigma attached to mental health issues, noted the APIAHF report.” (Sohrabji, 2013)
Why is the South Asian American community so afraid to seek out mental health services? There are probably numerous reasons to this. But I think the message we get is that we can either handle it ourselves, or that maybe its just in our head. I’ve also heard people say “its not that bad” But sometimes, it is and if it is, then why shouldn’t we be able to get help? If we had cancer we should go to the doctor, right? Therapy should be like going to the dentist or doctor every year. I wonder if the rates of depression and anxiety would decrease if everyone did a wellness check on their mind. Having a healthy mind is equally important as a healthy body.
So if you are a parent, kid, really a person who could use someone to talk to, then I say go for it. Because what’s the worst that could happen? And, whats the best that could happen? If the good outweighs the bad, then maybe its time to make that call and ask for help. Changing the stigma starts with all of us in this community, in all communities. The message we should send is that it’s okay to ask for help. The message should be that going to therapy does not mean something is wrong with you.
Check out Sahaj Kohli’s article on Misconceptions of therapy here:
“Suicide Amongst Indian Americans: We’re Stressed, Depressed, But Who’s Listening?” Sohrabji, Sunita, India West (2013), July.
About the Author
Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!