Let's Talk About Mental Health Part 1

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

One of my uncles was working abroad when he received the news that his mother passed away. Unfortunately, the announcement reached him pretty late and he was unable to return to Pakistan in time to attend the funeral and say his final goodbyes. This incident affected my uncle greatly to the point he stopped going to work and shut himself in his bedroom refusing to speak to his wife or anyone else. This behaviour was met with shock by the rest of the family and nobody understood what was happening. My uncle was eventually diagnosed with depression but he refused to take medication at first. Family members would come to visit to console my aunt and try to interact with my uncle to try and help him out of his "gloom" because forcing him to sit and talk should help him recover. He refused to meet with anyone. The news spread like wildfire through the family and everybody offered their opinions and advice but nobody truly acknowledged that depression could possibly be so severe. His major depressive episode lasted at least a year before he accepted any form of treatment and slowly started feeling better. His recovery still required a year's worth of therapy before he became a functioning adult again. Even now, discussing what happened is taboo within my family because mental illness is an uncomfortable topic for everyone. 

    In my culture, mental health is swept under the rugs like a dirty secret that cannot be shared because it will ruin the reputation of the entire household. This fear is generally warranted as well because when others in their community find about it, the family might have difficulty finding marriage proposals based purely on the connection. The knowledge punishes everyone. In this toxic environment, finding and receiving help becomes a tricky journey due to the fear of being found out. The suffering is considered a trial of God and it must be done with patience and silence. 

    But there is an issue that arises even before the point of finding out how to treat mental health and that is in acknowledging that it exists in the first place. Depression especially falls under the tricky category of where it can be dismissed as someone being "sad" so they should just "cheer up" and get on with their life instead of being so "dramatic" because "everyone suffers and goes through tough moments without breaking down". I myself heard this statement several times from my mother who refused to consider that I could be depressed because I had nothing to be upset about. I had everything handed to me unlike her and yet I had the audacity to feel low and try to get away from doing my chores or homework. If anyone should be depressed it was her but she was doing just fine and not complaining about the trials in her life so what gave me the right to be depressed? This was all in my head and there was no other choice but to fight this battle alone. Medications were not an option either because I "didn't need them" since my condition was not real in the first place. 

    This does not happen with just depression though, it is the same with postpartum depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, and ADHD. There needs to be a serious reform of mindsets so that these issues can be respected as much as any other physical condition that avails us and this change starts now with us. We are the bridge between our parents and our children. The way we behave will influence how our children deal with these situations as well because they will imitate our behaviour or not feel comfortable bringing up issues to us if we do not accept them with an open mind and believe in their existence. 

    Everything begins with a welcoming discussion with the one who needs it in a safe and open environment. So let's start this talk now with those who love us and whom we love. 

Until Next Time,


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