During her first week of college, Anisha fell down at a concert. “I had been feeling a lot of anxiety, I was having all these suicidal thoughts, and I was so anxious, so dehydrated,” she remembered. “I passed out and broke my teeth, and I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ That's what told me, ‘You need to take your mental health seriously.’”
At 18 years old, Anisha (first name only), started seeing a therapist for free on campus. She could talk to her mom about her anxiety and depression, but her dad would shut down those conversations. He would tell her there was no need to continue seeing a therapist. “I started to feel discouraged by my dad,” she said. After three years of therapy, she decided to stop going during her senior year.
Unfortunately, Anisha’s story isn’t uncommon — and neither is the reaction that she faced from her parents, or her decision to stop seeking treatment. Though there isn’t granular research on South Asians and mental health, Asian Americans report the lowest rates of treatment of any racial group. Some South Asian Americans are encouraged to turn to religion as a solution. Others are silenced by social taboos. A whole slew of solutions are emerging that target these specific issues, with one goal in mind: how can we get more South Asians to have healthy relationships with their mental health?
“South Asian cultures tend to value privacy of family matters, and if you talk about your family issues outside the family, it's like you'