Mental Health in Asian Communities

Mental health isn’t addressed enough in Asian communities.

For centuries there has been a stigma surrounding mental health problems in Asia. The bottom line is that we don’t talk about it enough. Thousands of people suffer from mental health problems in Asia and the Middle East, and I can imagine that only a small percentage of those affected by it actually receive treatment for it, or even attempt to go to their nearest GP/ hospital to get properly diagnosed.

But why?

One reason could be that it’s extremely expensive to receive medication for it. Not all countries are fortunate enough to have the NHS which supplies them with medication and free treatment. This means that adults often don’t attempt to get diagnosed because they know they won’t be able to receive treatment, thereby rendering their diagnosis useless.

As we all know, Asian countries aren’t the most prosperous, so we could even argue that governments and hospitals are reluctant to spend money on medication for mental health, when they could instead be using it for people in life threatening situations, or even, for the benefit of the whole country, such as in schools.

But I think there is something deeper than this, I believe that in Asian communities mental health is regarded as a weakness, as a signpost for one’s lack of masculinity, lack of femininity, lack of strength, perhaps as something which undermines your character as a whole, it’s an ideology that is so deeply rooted into the culture, it is hard to find the cause of it.

According to The Washington Post, ‘The Middle East and North Africa suffer the world’s highest depression rates.’ Also, a recent study published in the Public Library of Science, has found that more than 5% of people in the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean have depression.

We must also account for the fact that countries currently in war, or stricken by poverty, do not have access to public health services, thus, rates of depression can not be wholly accurate as not all people suffering from mental health problems have been diagnosed.

People leaving their native countries is also something difficult to bear, being away from your loved ones, your familiar culture and your home can sometimes cause the ultimate sadness and grief because it strikes such a deep chord in your heart, and for this reason we must also acknowledge that mental health problems are definitely evident for Asian and Middle-Eastern people who have immigrated to other countries.

Something I want to establish, is that mental health should not be regarded as a mere insecurity of your son’s or daughter’s, it should not be dismissed so easily when someone comes to you seeking help and it should not be belittled. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and this is something the South-Asian and Middle-Eastern community must soon learn to accept and thrive upon.

Instead of ignoring your child’s mental health, talk to them about it and see how you can help them. Instead of dismissing the idea that your husband or wife might be suffering from chronic depression or social anxiety, find ways you can help them. In the modern day struggle of living in such expensive countries, such mental health problems have become more and more common. In fact, depression rates for millennials are the highest they have ever been for adults, highlighting the idea that mental health needs to be addressed more strongly in today’s society.

Having a mental health problem is not a weakness. It is not a trait that defines your personality, neither does it undermine who you are.

You can get help from family and friends, and from your local GP.

Hotlines :

Samaritans (116 123)

PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41)


A Different Life

Not only do my parents talk to me everyday of ‘a different life’, but they also make me wish that I lived in that time and era.

When I was 7 years old, I made a project for school titled ‘Iraq’, it was probably the thing I was most proud of during my childhood. My sister helped me write it, in fact I remember she brought out a massive textbook which included details about Iraq’s weather, condition, wealth, geography and population. In one part of my project, I had written ‘The roads in Iraq used to be beautiful, but now they are destroyed because of the war.’

At the time, I didn’t really understand what the ‘war’ was or why Iraq’s condition had deteriorated so much. And to be honest, I still don’t. Was it bad luck? Had someone cursed the country that my parents had told me so many wonderful stories about? Or was it destined for Iraq from the beginning of time? Was it her fate to fall so hard, to crash into millions of tiny pieces? She was once an ethereal creature, glowing in the dark, shining so brightly with her jewels of raw materials and flickering vividly with the fire and oil she had burning inside of her.

But now, she is withered, and dark, and full of so much destruction that one can’t even fathom how she became to be like this.

Perhaps we could argue that the country fell because of the actions of the people themselves and that we -humankind- are the ultimate cause for its downfall, because if it wasn’t for the selfish actions of a small minority of people, Iraq would not be in the poor state it is in today.

People say that my country was once one of the richest countries in the world. With it’s powerful army and strong government, it ruled in the Middle East. The language of Arabic made the tongues of the people living there seem so full of wisdom and grace. But now, the people speak a harsh language, they curse and mock others, they have become bitter, with a tongue that whips and snaps just because of their broken heart.

My mother tells me of a different life, where education was so strong that Iraq’s schools and Universities were considered to be one of the best in the world.

My father tells me of a different life, where there was an organised system in Iraq, where people knew what they were doing, where there was no chaos lingering in the very core of Iraq.

My uncle tells me of a different life, where religion was strong and blissful, and the people believed their lives were blessed.

My family tell me of a life where there was peace in my country, where people dying everyday was not something common at all.

I’m not saying that my country was ever perfect or completely beautiful as it had its flaws as all things do, but it was a happier place, where love and hope and joy still existed.

I don’t know what it’s like to belong to a country that is powerful and strong as I was not born in that era. But I’m lucky enough to have heard the insightful stories of how it used to be.

I wait for the day that I can hear the words ‘Peace in Iraq has been restored’.

I wait for the day where I will no longer hear the phrase ‘a different life’ but instead ‘our life has returned.’