Minorities and Mental Health

Many people told me that therapy is a process, but I don’t think they realize that getting to therapy can be a process in itself.

I remember the first time I told my parents I wanted to go to therapy. My immigrant, Indian parents. I remember the confusion, the questions, the hesitation, and (eventually) the approval. This same pattern repeated when I began looking into medication for anxiety and depression. Except this time, it didn’t end in approval. It ended in arguments and fighting and crying, closely followed by harsh disapproval.

The next time I saw my therapist, I told her what had happened. I expected her to tell me that this was unusual, that we would figure out a solution together. However, I was not expecting her to tell me that this was a common trend among minority populations.

And that’s where this article begins.

In 2016, researchers in the International Journal of Health Services claimed that certain minorities were less able to utilize mental health resources. Perhaps this is the reason why my parents were so apprehensive towards my efforts of finding mental health resources. To put it simply, they weren’t used to it.

There’s been a history of mental illness in my family that ranges from severe bipolar disorder to OCD to depression. Yet despite this history, I was the first to reach out for help. It’s no surprise then that this would shock them, considering their minimal exposure to the mental health world.

My parents were never exposed to the psychological realm of health, and my voluntary exploration undoubtedly was new territory for them. Lindsey Holmes, a journalist at HuffPost, says that a continuing stigma around mental health is especially prevalent among minority populations, and this prevents many people from getting help when they need it. For this reason, seeing other people actively utilizing resources can be unnerving, given that they had a different mindset regarding psychological help from the start.

So, to all my first generation trailblazers, FOB adventurers, cultural-melting-pot warriors, cut your parents some slack. You might be their first look into the world of mental health.

And who knows? Maybe next time you go to therapy, they’ll join you.