3 Tips for South-Asian Individuals Seeking Mental Health Support

By Ana Alok, BS, MA (in progress)

In recent times, global awareness of mental health issues has been on the rise. However, within South Asian communities, a significant gap in seeking help for mental health challenges still exists. The APIAHF report highlights that South Asians in the US are least likely to use psychological services, despite reporting high rates of depression and suicide. This makes it imperative for us to understand some reasons of why this may be the case. Some of those reasons include…  

  1. Stigma: Cultural stigma surrounding mental health concerns is a sad reality for many South Asians. Families often consider mental health as an intimate family matter and can relate seeking help with shame. By nurturing cultural sensitivity, we can create spaces that understand these sentiments while gently encouraging open dialogue. 
  2. Lack of Awareness: There is limited exposure to mental health information in South Asian communities which means individuals may not recognize signs or understand that these conditions are treatable. Addressing these misconceptions can create a more supportive environment, framing seeking help as a positive step.
  3. Lack of Representation and Inclusivity: A shortage of providers representing diverse cultures, especially South Asian populations, contributes to feelings of isolation. Having relatable role models, language-proficient providers, and culturally sensitive advocates is crucial for encouraging help-seeking.
  4. Fear of Discrimination: South Asian individuals may fear discrimination or judgment based on their cultural background, immigration status, or other factors. This fear can deter them from disclosing mental health issues or seeking professional assistance.
  5. Lack of Resources: Many South-Asian individuals, often immigrants, face challenges like language barriers and limited resources. Unfamiliarity with a new country can make reaching out to mental health professionals even more difficult.

3 Tips for Seeking Support for South-Asian Individuals:

  1. Choose Culturally Sensitive Professionals: Seek mental health professionals who demonstrate cultural sensitivity and understanding of South Asian values and beliefs. Look for practitioners who create a safe space for open dialogue and respect your cultural background.
  1. Community Support: Connect with South Asian community groups or organizations that focus on mental health awareness. Sharing experiences with individuals who understand your cultural context can provide valuable support and encouragement. Websites like MannMukti, South Asian Mental Health Alliance (SAMHA), and Sakhi offer valuable resources.
  1. Embrace Self-Care Practices: Hailing from a collectivistic culture, it can be challenging to maintain personal boundaries, and spending ‘me time’ over spending time with family. However, incorporating self-care practices is essential for our mental health. If struggling with such case, one suggestion could be using self-care techniques rooted in cultural traditions whether it’s meditation, mindfulness, or other wellness activities. Embracing practices familiar to you (and your family) can enhance your mental well-being and (if comfortable) can also serve as a good point to start a dialogue with family members about mental health. 

Breaking the barriers surrounding mental health in South Asian communities requires a collective effort to eradicate stigma, increase awareness, and enhance inclusivity in mental health spaces. By fostering cultural sensitivity and providing relatable support networks we can encourage a positive shift in attitudes towards seeking help.

Ana Alok is a Clinical Psychology graduate student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her post-undergraduate experience includes working with communities in both the United States and India, providing mental health services to individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Ana is dedicated to creating a safe and welcoming space for all clients, including those who have suffered trauma, identify as LGBTQ+, and are members of diverse minority groups. She recognizes that these individuals may face unique challenges and barriers when seeking mental health services and strives to provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment where clients can explore their emotions and work toward healing. Ana is currently accepting new clients; you can learn more about her by clicking here.