Growing up in my household was a bit of a struggle. Around the age of 12, I was bullied quite severely, which in turn had an impact on my mental health. I began to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. I was always a reserved, quiet person but I built up the courage to talk to my mum about how I was feeling.
I went into the kitchen to talk about being bullied and how it made me feel. I was expecting some understanding and comfort but that is not what I received. To this day, I remember exactly what she said to me, “You’re too young to be depressed. What do you have to be depressed about?”
The response made me feel like my feelings did not matter as I was ‘young’ and had not experienced life yet. At times, I believe that I was not taken seriously due to my age. I was young, so perhaps my mum believed what I was feeling at the time was temporary. I felt sad for some time as I hoped that I could at least talk to my mum and get some encouragement. The topic wasn’t discussed for some time and I was always the one to bring it up.
As my mum didn’t understand me and how I was feeling, I turned to my cousin who understood my feelings completely. I expressed how my mother’s response made me feel and she assured me that her response is ‘typical’ of the older, west Indian generation. Mental health is somewhat of a taboo topic within West Indian culture; some people with mental health disorders are often referred to as ‘crazy’ with little acknowledgement of what the person may be facing.
Not only was discussing feelings and topics that are sensitive in nature rarely discussed, when it was eventually brought up, most of the time the topic was dismissed or the issue was minimised.
If I could turn back time, I wish my mother reassured me and comforted me insisting that what I was feeling was valid regardless of my age. Depression and anxiety can affect all ages regardless of creed, religion, or colour. I wished that she was able to understand that symptoms of depression and anxiety can overlap, life experience can create these symptoms and that you can’t just pray mental health conditions away.
I tried countless times to talk to my mother about it, but she told me repeatedly to just ‘pray about it’. I took her advice, but it did not help me. I guess that was the best advice she could offer and that may have been taught to her.
For those who have a loved one who may be struggling with their mental health, reassure them that you are there to support them. Providing an individual who may be struggling with their mental health with a support system can have a positive impact on their wellbeing. Be cautious when you talk to them and don’t force them to talk to you about issues they may be facing. If you provide a safe space for them, they may be willing to talk to you in their own time. If they do decide to confide in you, please be mindful with your responses. Listen to understand and try not to judge them.
Everyone has a different way of dealing and coping with issues that they may be struggling with. My family doesn’t always understand me, but I am ok with that. Going to therapy has taught me that I am only responsible for me and no one else. Some people may underestimate how much mental health has an impact on our day to day lives.
I aim to try and talk about mental health more often with my family regardless of the response I get. Now, my mum has become more open with regards to discussing mental health which I am happy about. We are all just taking it one day at a time and counting our blessings in the process.