As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more apparent to me that talking about mental health in the Black and Asian communities is still very much a taboo topic and hardly ever spoken about. Over the last several years, I have made it my mission to break the stigma of mental health issues, especially in these communities.
There are people from both communities that seek help to manage their mental health issues but are not visible. What scares me is that if we don’t communicate with each other about mental health issues, we will ultimately pass down the stigma to our younger generation and they may not feel comfortable or confident to talk about the mental health issues they may be facing.
As a professional actress I am faced with a lot of highs and lows on a regular basis and it can get extremely taxing on my mental wellbeing. Over the years, I have built a good support network and knowledge to seek help when needed. Both can make a real difference to staying well on a day to day basis. Yet, a big question that still motivates me to take positive action today is: What can I do with what I know and have experienced that can give people from my community the knowledge and help to deal with these issues? Being open to change is key – no one should wait until something happens to their loved ones, for them to realise they could’ve done something to prevent it.
Alongside acting I run ‘Speak Up’, an organisation that works with young people and adults supporting them with their mental health issues. “Man up!”, “Cheer up!”, “It will pass”, “So many people have it worse than you” and “Don’t be such a downer” were some trigger words and phrases young people and adults felt did a lot more damage than good to their mental health and wellbeing. Can you imagine hearing these words and phrases repeatedly and not feeling like you have that support you need? People with mental health issues, especially from the Black and Asian communities, are made to feel embarrassed or ashamed about what they are feeling and then in turn this allows their negative thoughts and feelings to grow.
In the Black and Asian communities, I have noticed a lack of empathy for others when faced with mental health issues. Are we just too embarrassed to talk about these issues When I talk to friends about their mental health issues, they always say how empowered they feel after. We never know what someone else is going through until we communicate. Our varied and yet shared experiences can make a real difference to someone’s life. We do not have to suffer alone or in silence.
I do believe there is a shift that is happening within our communities. There are a growing number of forums and safe spaces like Speak Up, that give aid to people who are facing mental health difficulties. There is always room to do more and I will continue to make it my mission to be part of creating positive change to help break the stigma in the Black and Asian communities. I would also like to encourage community members that have been, or know someone, affected by mental health problems, to join this meaningful movement for change.