Talk of mental health in the South Asian community is largely nonexistent. Despite assimilation and adoption of a more American lifestyle, many South Asian households encourage the taboo that surrounds depression, suicide, and mental illness. Told to “tough it out”, to “stop showing weakness”, many first generation South Asian children grow up with a warped sense of what mental health is and why it should be prioritized. Young, Indian women especially, have shown to have poorer mental health because of such discrepancies in their upbringing. Although this is a prevalent issue among millions of families both in the U.S. and around the world, there is little research on how familial ignorance of mental health negatively impacts young women. According to an Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum report (APIAHF), South Asian Americans have had the lowest rate of utilization of mental health services. This has perpetuated the fear and shame that is experienced by first generation South Asian millennials when they seek treatment, therapy or help. A major reason for this is the intergenerational culture differences that occur in many families. In order to understand why this frequently occurs in South Asian families living in America, it is important to explore how the South Asian community has defined itself within the contexts of mental health, seeking help, and vulnerability.
Tummala- Narra (2018), discusses the numerous challenges experienced by South Asian immigrants and their children, that prevent this group from prioritizing their mental health, especially among South Asian women. Although acculturative stress and trauma exist within this community, it is rarely acknowledged, leading to the universal denial of such mental health outcomes, both in previous immigrant generations, and current ones. It has therefore been recommended that a restructuring our understanding of immigrant mental health is required in order to better define and diagnose the issues of the South Asian American community.
As a first generation, Indian woman myself, I have witnessed firsthand how destructive the invalidation of mental health in my community has been. As I complete my project on this topic, I hope to investigate how taboos surrounding mental health have been normalized, and why intergenerational stigmas have encouraged poor mental health in young, millennial, Indian women. In order to present how severely stigma functions in American-Indian communities.
Tummala-Narra, P., & Deshpande, A. (2018). Mental health conditions among South Asians in the United States. In M. J. Perera & E. C. Chang (Eds.), Cross-cultural research in health, illness and well-being: Vol. 1. Biopsychosocial approaches to understanding health in South Asian Americans (p. 171–192). Springer International Publishing.