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Mental Health Programs

Your mental health is affected by numerous factors from your daily life, including the stress of balancing work with your health and relationships. Mental health problems and illnesses can take many forms. Mental health is just as important as your physical health. Mental illnesses are still feared and misunderstood by many people. One of the best ways to stop this fear and reduce the stigma around mental health issues is education. The key to maintaining mental wellness is striking a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching that balance is a learning process.

Mental health is a highly stigmatized and silenced health concern for South Asian Communities in Canada. Migration and culture are important social determinants of mental health within South Asian Community. Both premigration (circumstances leading to migration) and post migration factors (loss of social status, social support, separation from family, difficulty integrating into a new culture, and lack of employment) can be sources of stress for newcomers and settlers. The generational culture clash between parents and youth is another significant mental health stressor.

Attitudes towards mental health problems in the South Asian community

*The causes of mental health problems are often misunderstood

Mental illness is a taboo subject, meaning there is little open discussion about mental health problems. The diagnoses are often kept private and not openly discussed, even with immediate family. The culture of secrecy that surrounds mental illness can, in part, be attributed to misunderstandings and misconceptions that have grown up around all aspects of mental health problems over many years.

*The family can be both caring and isolating:

Family relationships have a strong and integral role in the life of someone with a mental health problem. Yet in seeking to protect relatives with mental health problems from gossip and stigma – and also to protect the wider family’s reputation – there is a tendency for the close family to reduce the amount of contact the person might have with the extended family or wider community.

*Social pressure to conform:

Adherence to social norms is the key to achieving and maintaining respect and standing within the community. These include doing well academically, being married, having children and being employed. Living outside of these norms, whether through poor academic achievements or having a mental health problem, can be considered abnormal and damage the reputation and standing of the person with a mental health problem and those associated with them, reinforcing feelings of shame and the need for secrecy.

*People with mental health problems are not valued:

People with mental health problems and careers reported that people within the South Asian community commonly consider mental health problems as synonymous with being ‘stupid’. Therefore, others within the community do not listen to them or value their point of view as they would someone with a higher social standing.

*Marriage prospects can be damaged:

Mental health problems can be a serious threat to marriage prospects in families where arranged marriages are common, either for the person experiencing mental health problems or for relatives who become “tarnished” by association.

All mental illnesses can be treated. Some of the most common mental health problems and illnesses include:

  • Substance-related disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Deliberate self-injury
  • Depression & Stress
  • Development Disabilities
  • Mood disorders

SAWAC facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health; community integration, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness and to promote mental health literacy by meeting the needs of people living with mental health problems and illnesses and their families and caregivers.