Brown/Asian Parents and Mental Health

Last year, one of my closest friends was going through a tough time.

She was a freshman in college, and her mental health was clearly failing. It’s hard to tell if it was the result of separation from parents or multiple broken relationships or something else, but god, she was in a dire situation. She was an ace student throughout her academic career but her grades were no longer the same. She even rarely attended classes.

As my friend was having a difficult time, I felt it was my responsibility to intervene and provide her a supporting hand. Well, me hearing her out was definitely not going to solve the entire problem. Therefore, I convinced her to talk to her parents to get some help. It took quite an effort to convince her of it because she was very scared of her parents’ reaction. 

The next day, she came to me, and I asked her if she told her parents. She immediately started weeping as I asked her about it. Turns out, she was scolded instead of getting a help. She then told me, “I wish I was born somewhere in the western world. The parents there would have understood me.” I couldn’t do anything at that instance, but looking back, it bugs me very much now. Are “Brown”/Asian parents really to be blamed for who they are? 

On doing some study and research, it turns out my friend wasn’t the only person who accused Brown parents for being “too rudimentary and negligible” when it comes to mental health. The entire Asian generation-Z has been in a war with their parents concerning mental health, repeatedly blaming their parents for being aloof when it comes to the mind of their child and not understanding the severity of the issue.

Well, the truth is, they are. But at the same time, I feel it’s wrong from our generation too to just blame them about their ideas and opinions about mental health. It’s important to understand that an individual’s mindset depends on the place where they grew. They grew up in an entirely different era where there were other bigger concerns than what we have today. 

Have you heard your father saying, “When we grew up, we didn’t have any Television in our home. Only *insert name here* had a Television in our village and all the villagers would gather at their house every Saturday just to watch *insert show name here*. We used to spend our days rearing cattle and playing football designed with socks.”? Well, this was the world where our parents grew up in. It feels like an entirely different world hearing those stories, doesn’t it?

Asian world started developing only, you don’t have to look that far, 40 years ago. China’s economy boomed from 1978 only. Singapore started turning into what it is today only from the 1990s. Prior to that, people had a very difficult time. They had concerns such as seeking freedom from colonial grips, surviving the war, and forming an independent nation. They had to worry whether they would get to eat that night or not. They didn’t have good schools. They didn’t have access to technology to be aware about what the world is. They simply didn’t know that mental health even existed.

Under such circumstances, is it fair from us to have an expectation that they would be aware about mental health? For them, their concerns were far bigger than what we have right now. Even more, their parents brought them up in a similar way. So it’s natural that they try to bring us up similarly, expecting we would grow as tough as them. We can’t blame them if they feel appalled when someone talks about mental health today.

Take this example: we are going through COVID-19 right now. In the next 100 years, that generation will probably be laughing thinking about us worrying about a puny virus destroying our world— just the way we laugh when it’s said small pox was once a highly feared disease. See, that’s how generations grow! Each generation has their own bigger concerns and we really shouldn’t be blaming each other for not understanding us. 

So what can we do? Mental health is a really important topic and we need to address it; especially when the world is moving as fast as it is currently. It’s very crucial at these very times that we make our parents understand us. You cannot move in too fast with the information. You will have to calm yourself down and start dropping information slowly and consistently. Imagine how our parents will react when we jump in and say, “Mom, I feel like my mind is about to burst. I can’t stop this pain. It feels like something is clenching my heart tightly and it could explode soon.” Don’t be surprised if she yells at you and chases you out of the room.

What would happen if a person from 1960s came through a time machine to 2020 and you immediately start showing how the world is without explaining anything? It’s a similar case here. One step at a time. People understand when things are explained to them. You will have to sit down and start off something like, “Mom, I am facing some troubles in life. Since you’re very experienced, I was hoping I could take your suggestions.” It would take the conversation in a flow and your parents will definitely understand you soon enough. 

Regarding my friend, she’s better now. She has received the professional attention that was necessary and it happened because eventually she made her parents understand her. So, wrapping it all up, Brown parents aren’t to be blamed for not understanding the seriousness of mental health. As a generation with access to all the resources and information, it’s our role first to make them understand what it is. 

— Bibatshu, Kathmandu

* This is a submitted post *  

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