“We’re encouraging people to tend to their mental health that day without shame,” Ikpi said. Well July 2, and the entire month, are now behind us, but the quest for mental health wellness is an ongoing one. But when it comes to communities of color, the stigma surrounding mental health issues makes the fight to normalize and legitimize mental illness, let alone seek help, that much harder.
It’s easy to feel alone when so few people talk about mental illness. Disgrasian’s Jen Wang wrote a moving post about her experiences:
Even though I witnessed it in various family members, I didn’t even know growing up that depression had its own name. Instead it was called “not trying hard enough,” “not working hard enough,” “not achieving enough,” “being lazy,” “lacking decorum,” “lacking pride,” “losing self-control,” “not caring enough about what other people think,” “embarrassing your family,” “selfish,” “rude,” “failure.” All of the language I heard to describe what I would only later understand to be mental illness made it clear you could always “work” your way out of it-alone, naturally, because you didn’t want to bother other people with your problems-and if you couldn’t, well, you had no one but yourself to blame.
… When I spent time on No Shame Day reflecting on how hard it’s been to come to terms with my own depression, even after all of this time and treatment, even with the support I’ve received from family, friends, quality mental health care practitioners, readers of this blog, and perfect strangers-to that person who saw me wailing uncontrollably in the car on Santa Monica Blvd. years ago and asked if I needed help, I still think of your kindness-I was reminded that the struggle against not only the cultural stigma over mental illness but the internalized personal one is deep and ongoing. I’ve only come this far in that struggle with the help of many others. It’s my hope that no one else reading this who’s been nodding along to what I’m saying will have to go it alone either.
And yet, an estimated 26 percent adults report dealing with depression, the most common form of mental illness. Think about it whenever you’re standing in line at the DMV or waiting for a train: more than one in four people around you is likely to have suffered from depression.
Disgrasian put together a helpful directory of mental health services for Asian Americans. Whatever your steps for mental health wellness looks like to you—having that good cry you’ve been needing to let out of your system, standing up and doing a dance, calling a friend, or finally picking up the phone to find a therapist like you’ve been meaning to do all summer—here’s hoping that you do what you need to do. After all, it’s August now.