South Asian Women's Mental Health
Mental health influences a person's overall health. Many South Asians underestimate the importance of mental health and its impact on physical health. A person’s state of mind is connected to their overall well-being and needs equal attention. For example, South Asians are already at high risk of diabetes. Excess stress increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can further increase blood sugar and accelerate progression to diabetes. Therefore, a mental condition like stress can directly affect your physical health.
Most people will undergo some form of mental distress during a lifetime. It is essential for everyone to have access to a social network that openly provides support. Unfortunately, mental health is often the facet of health care that is most neglected within the South Asian community. Those with mental health disorders may feel that their distress is not taken seriously. Through open discussion, this can change. Psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and other disorders are common and exist on a spectrum. When someone identifies early symptoms and seeks treatment, serious health problems can often be avoided.
South Asian women, in particular, might feel as if they should endure their mental distress as just a part of life rather than something for which they should seek help. They may feel pressure to maintain an image of control or worry about becoming a burden on other people. In fact, mental health issues are best dealt with through open, truthful discussions with physicians, family members and friends. Health issues, such as depression, are treatable. In fact, when people receive treatment for depression, they can feel more productive in day-to-day activities and more in control of their lives.
Some people think that seeking help for mental distress or disorders is unnecessary, self-indulgent, or “Western medicine.” In fact, caring for mental health is not just a Western medicine concept. Traditional South Asian forms of medicine, such as homeopathy and Ayurveda, also promote a consciousness of physical and mental serenity.
Learn more about Mental Health and South Asians
MySahana: A South Asian Mental Health Nonprofit
"South Asian women struggle with the old tape in our head about who we are required to be: good mothers, good wives, good daughters. In fact, part of being a good mother, wife, daughter is about obedience, rather than taking care of [ourselves].
"When a woman finds her voice, she is able to stand up and speak for herself. Simply asking for what you need and want from your partner is by far one of the most empowering things I have done for myself. A woman can learn to value herself more than she is valued by her partner or in-laws. After having spent years in therapy I was finally able to value myself."
—Sonia, emigrated from India to the United States 38 years ago
Last reviewed: 2012