As a psychotherapist, I see many South Asian youth entering the mental health system often only after a crisis. Research has shown us the importance of intervening early to improve the chances of recovery (World Health Organization, 2004). Based on my clinical experience, many South Asian youth are hesitant to disclose their mental health concerns to their family due to stigma and concerns about being misunderstood. Many youth have also shared concerns regarding fear of bringing “shame” and “disrespect” to their family’s name. Some South Asian families label these youth as “crazy” “psycho” or “lazy” and tell them “its all in your head.” This not only leads to feeling invalidated by family members, but it also impacts self-esteem. As a result, some youth suppress their emotions and resist seeking professional help as it is often discouraged. As a mental health provider, I believe that it is very important to incorporate a cultural framework in understanding the family and cultural dynamics of the South Asian community. Providing psychoeducation to South Asian family members is crucial in helping these youth access mental health services at an earlier stage of their mental health challenges. Accessing mental health services for the first time can be an overwhelming step for many individuals. However, with the support of a friend or a family physician can help South Asian youth access mental health services within their community.
World Health Organization. Prevention of mental disorders: effective interventions and policy options. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004.