Stigma about mental health is a prominent issue within the South Asian community that is not often discussed. This stigma can have especially harmful effects on youth that are struggling with mental health, as they may feel unable to reach out for help and resources when they need it. Youth in general are at higher risk of mental health issues, with 50% of lifetime mental illness cases beginning before age 14 and 75% before age 24.1 Because of the stigma in the South Asian community as well as various other factors such as upbringing, academic stress, pressure to adhere to certain cultural values, and pressure to assimilate into western culture, South Asian youth have increased risk for committing self-harm and suicide.2 Not only this, but South Asian female youth are 5 to 7 times more likely than South Asian male youth to commit self-harm.3 This may be due to added cultural, familial, and societal pressures on those who identify as women.
There are many ways in which the increased impacts of mental health on youth in the South Asian community can be addressed. According to the WHO, the earlier that people receive treatment for mental health, the higher chances there are for recovery.4 This means that attention needs to be focused on giving South Asian youth the resources that they need to address their mental health, such as by reducing barriers to access for treatment and creating a more supportive environment in which youth are able to ask for help when they need it. A reduction in stigma surrounding mental health would allow for more people to feel comfortable reaching out for help, and one way to do this is to increase education and awareness about mental health in the South Asian community as a whole.
To learn more about how South Asian youth are specifically impacted by mental health, watch the video below, which was created by two student groups at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. DISHA is a student group that focuses on creating a safe space for Desi womxn and non-binary folks and raising awareness for social issues in the community. SAMI (Students Acknowledge Mental Illness) is a group that works to reduce the stigma around mental health, especially focusing on people of color, by creating a space to have open conversations about mental health. The video below showcases stories from University of Minnesota students about their experiences with mental health in the South Asian community.
- “Blueprint for Change: Research on Child and Adolescent Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, 2001, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/advisory-boards-and-groups/namhc/reports/blueprint-for-change-research-on-child-and-adolescent-mental-health
- Sharma, Neha, and Deepika Shaligram. “Suicide among South Asian Youth in America.” Suicide Among Diverse Youth, 15 Nov. 2017, pp. 83–97., https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-66203-9_6.
- Bhugra, Dinesh, and Manisha Desai. “Attempted Suicide in South Asian Women.” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, vol. 8, 2002, pp. 418–423.
- World Health Organization. Prevention of Mental Disorders: Effective Interventions and Policy Options. 2004.