Cultural taboo - mental health issues in our community
“People with mental health conditions deserve just as much support and compassion as people with physical health conditions.”
In my community we do not discuss mental health issues and the impact on our families. There is still so much stigma attached to mental health in the BAME communities overall. We are brought up with the view that personal problems must be kept private. Seeking therapy i.e talking to an outsider is seen as the ultimate form of betrayal. Airing our family’s dirty laundry in public is shameful. Admitting to anxiety, depression or stress is a weakness in our culture. Additionally, mental illness is sometimes talked about superstitiously, for example someone putting an evil eye on you or saying you are possessed. Also a cultural ideology often leads to perception that mental health practices are “something white people do”. This is furthered by the predominance of white therapists in the industry.
I can think of several occasions when people from my own community have resisted treatments such as counselling or medication. There is some paranoia and scepticism around certain drugs such as antidepressants, and the fear that these drugs will interfere with one’s mind is prevalent in our community. If a GP suggested that one goes for counselling sessions, one might refuse because of the feeling that it isn’t anyone’s business, it is not my culture or personality to share private matters with strangers.
In our community where marriage and reputation are paramount, a woman’s medical history often acts as a reference for her role as a wife. Women with mental health issues face the problem of been perceived as an unstable wife.
Men in our community are brought up to hide their emotions. They rarely seek support from friends or relatives. Men in our community are less able to identify that they have mental health problems, are unaware of sources of help, and fear that contact with mental health services will lead to loss of status
What can be done?
There needs to be more work in educating our community about mental health issues. Some health services are not equipped for our communities and the cultural taboos that we face. They need to understand where people come from to understand what they are facing.
The future of mental health in our community
- Promote mental health and wellbeing sessions in our community
- Sign-posting by members of our community with metal health qualifications and experience
- Work with mental health champions in our community to share their personal experiences
- Confidentiality when discussing individual mental health issues
- Engage with our youths on mental health issues and education