Fighting Stigma: Breaking Silence on Mental Health in South Asian Communities

Fighting Stigma: Breaking Silence on Mental Health in South Asian Communities

South Asians have long been hesitant to discuss their mental health due to the prevailing stigma that surrounds it. However, this stigma is now being challenged by individuals like Akshya Vasudev, a geriatric psychiatrist in London, Ont., who was born in India. Vasudev, along with other members of diaspora communities in London, is actively working to break down barriers and initiate conversations about mental health within their own cultural groups. The stigma surrounding mental health conditions often creates obstacles for individuals seeking support, particularly for newcomers and international students who may lack knowledge on how to address these challenges.

Growing up with an army background, Vasudev witnessed firsthand the detrimental impact of not addressing mental health issues. He saw army officials with unaddressed mental health concerns, which were swept under the rug due to the fear of career repercussions. This experience, coupled with encountering a soldier who died by suicide during his childhood, had a profound impact on Vasudev and motivated him to pursue psychiatry as a profession.

Although mental health awareness in India was once almost non-existent, Vasudev believes that times are changing. The increasing number of Bollywood movies incorporating underlying themes of mental health has encouraged Indians to be more open about their own feelings. Vasudev has witnessed this shift, both in India and abroad, as more people approach him to share their stories and seek help.

To cater to specific communities, psychiatrists from diverse backgrounds play a crucial role in addressing mental health conversations. Hamzah Algodi, president of the Arab Students’ Association at Western University, emphasizes the significance of having psychiatrists who understand cultural nuances. By hosting workshops and sessions aimed at addressing mental health concerns, organizations like the Arab Students’ Association are actively working to diminish the taboo associated with mental health discussions.

The presence of a growing number of psychiatrists from diverse cultural groups in London allows for the upliftment of their respective communities. Vasudev sees it as a privilege to bring mental health to the forefront and better serve these communities. Through their efforts, conversations around mental health are slowly becoming more progressive, enabling individuals to seek the help they need without fear or judgment.


Why are South Asians hesitant to discuss mental health?
South Asians often face cultural stigma surrounding mental health, leading them to be hesitant in discussing their struggles openly.

How do cultural communities break down barriers surrounding mental health?
By having psychiatrists who understand the cultural nuances and hosting workshops and sessions, cultural communities can initiate conversations about mental health and challenge the existing social stigma.

Why is it important for diverse psychiatrists to be part of mental health conversations?
Diverse psychiatrists bring their unique experiences and understanding of cultural nuances, creating a safe and inclusive space for individuals to discuss mental health.

Are attitudes towards mental health changing in South Asian communities?
Yes, attitudes towards mental health in South Asian communities are gradually evolving, with more individuals becoming open to sharing their stories and seeking help.

Where can I find help if I or someone I know is struggling with mental health?
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are various resources available. It is recommended to reach out to local mental health organizations, community centers, or seek assistance from healthcare professionals.

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