South Asian nations report having the highest rate of depression among the global youth. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), a third of all individuals who have depression live in South Asia.
South Asia, comprising India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and the Maldives, accounts for one-fourth of the world's population. The region's mental health infrastructure is inadequate, receiving less than 1% of the national budget. Psychiatrists, other mental health specialists, clinical psychologists, and social workers are also in short supply.
Having challenges that harm one's sense of self-worth, such as body weight, persistent bullying in school or college, abuse that was either physical, emotional, or sexual, Intergenerational trauma, cultural conflict, academic & societal pressure, interpersonal stress, financial hardship, and family issues are the significant contributors for depression among South Asian youth in modern society. These stressors can contribute to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse—the most common drugs are cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana.
Mental health is a taboo subject in South Asian society, and it is persistently dismissed as a global issue that affects people everywhere. Since mental health is still shunned, many South Asians suffer in silence today. South Asians put up their best efforts as a people to display their resiliency and mask their vulnerability. We must all work together to provide hospitable, judgment-free spaces where a wide range of people can engage in these infrequent but difficult discussions.
Sometimes more than just the two individuals in a relationship are involved in South Asians' passionate love relationships. Family is typically involved from the start of the relationship and well beyond the marriage due to South Asians' emphasis on family.
South Asians sometimes deal with several challenges at once in various facets of their lives, such as problems with their families, jobs, friends, society, and themselves. Burnout can emerge from the demands and duties placed on South Asian youngsters of various ages, which can become too much to handle.
The challenges we endure to constantly offer up ourselves to others in a patriarchal system, as well as the ongoing need to offer emotional support and care for our families, often have a larger impact on women in our culture and lead to burnout.
Family reputation and how others perceive us are very important in South Asian societal structure. It is common to assume that a child's mental illness or need for mental health care is a reflection of poor parenting.
As a result, South Asian parents put unnecessary pressure on their kids to keep their issues with mental health a secret and quiet lest it reflect poorly on them. As the family is focused on secrecy and maintaining a positive public image, the resultant impact is to silence and sweep beneath a rarely lifted rug an essential component of one's entire health and wellness.
Even if we are eventually able to successfully manage concerns of culture, family, and finances, South Asians are then confronted with another challenge: a therapist who is unfamiliar with our cultural history or how bullying and the feeling of not being heard might affect our mental health.
Our mental health is impacted by interpersonal conflicts at work or college, monotonous routines, and a lack of diversity in the media. The South Asian youth can be let down in the most fundamental ways by a therapist who doesn't comprehend this.
Successful healthcare initiatives are imperative to enhance the SA region's focus on mental health.
In order to improve mental health in South Asia, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must continue to spread awareness through campaigns and emphasize the significance of therapy to attain a level of social acceptance and normalcy for depression.
We should aim to emphasize on the distinction between mental health and mental illness. Although not everyone experiences a mental illness, we firmly believe that "everyone has mental health and that is something we can actively preserve and work on."
Breaking the taboos surrounding mental health in South Asian communities would require some thought about mental health in the same way that we think of physical health, and compare treatment for the mind to a gym session for your body. This approach could make a huge difference in the lives of the South Asian youth.
The youth in South Asia need an outlet to channelize their unresolved feelings and a safe space to share their problems with a licensed therapist unabashedly.
Islam, F. et al. (2017) Mental health of South Asian youth in Peel Region, Toronto, Canada: A qualitative study of determinants, coping strategies and Service Access, BMJ Open. British Medical Journal Publishing Group. Available at: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/11/e018265
Thelwell, K. (2020) 8 facts about depression and mental health in South Asia, The Borgen Project. Kim Thelwell https://borgenproject.org/wp-content/uploads/logo.jpg. Available at: https://borgenproject.org/depression-and-mental-health-in-south-asia/
Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Teen Depression.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Aug. 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/teen-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20350985.
“South Asians & Mental Health.” SAYHU, https://www.sayhu.org/mental-health.
Ivy, John. “The Price of Concealment - South Asians on Navigating Our Way to Mental Wellness.” SAARI Collective, 30 Nov. 2022, https://saaricollective.com.au/family/blog/the-price-of-concealment-south-asians-on-navigating-our-way-to-mental-wellness/.