Many from the South Asian community confront various adversities as they migrate to the Western environment. It is likely they face stress, anxiety, and pressure to advance in this new environment. Unfortunately, getting help for these communities is not always easy. Some of the biggest barriers that arise when asking for help are finances, lack of diversity in the mental health field, stigma, and not knowing where or how to access resources. As a South Asian immigrant, these were the hardest challenges I faced as I sought help.
I took a psychology class when I was in High School and I was fascinated by how the mind works and how emotions impact our social settings. Even though I took this class, I still had a hard time understanding my symptoms and thought processes as I struggled with my mental health in college. I was not sure how to get help because I did not want my parents to know about my challenges with mental health due to the stigma in South Asian communities. All I knew at that time was that it is not comfortable to feel this way. So, I took it upon myself to google-search my symptoms and seek out help.
I knew I had to either contact psychiatrist, psychology, or therapist. I was still not sure who I should be contacted at the point but I knew I did not have the financial funds to receive help because I was still staying at home and was dependent on my parents financially. The feeling of helplessness became even more prominent as I came to realize these barriers.
As time continued, one day I landed upon a flyer about college’s mental health program and how it offered free sessions with a therapist. I took this flyer and went straight to the office. As I reached the door, I paused and took steps back to head to the stairwell close by. As I started to pace back and forth, I started thinking, “what’s wrong with me? Do I need this? it’s all in my head! I will be fine. Time heals everything. I am letting my parents down, I am a horrible daughter. I am just a burden.” After few tears, I went into the office, had a mental health assessment, and signed up for a therapy session.
As I sat across a therapist for my first session, I hesitantly told her what was concerning me and I told her all the negative thoughts I was having. At some point, she asked me, “what do you want to do with your future?” I told her “I am not sure but I want to go in a field where I help other people, but how can I help others if I am the one asking for help?” She then posed the question and said, “Let’s say you are sitting in my chair and a person is saying this to you. What would you say to this person?” I paused and then said, “I would tell her it is okay to feel this but you will get through this.”
Today, I am a South Asian Mental Health Therapist who wants to provide my services to all communities. It was a long journey after that first session but I made it. The little seed of hope I received from my first session will always stick with me.