Shattering the Stigma Around Mental Health
Written by: Tiffany Manbodh
Disclaimer: If you are currently experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues, please seek help from a licensed professional. You can speak to a therapist or call an anonymous hotline.
If someone has cancer, they undergo chemotherapy and take medication. We consider this to be fine and normal. However, if someone has depression and takes medication, some people may find something wrong with it. They begin to question the reasoning behind the depressed person having to take medication in the first place. Some may even think they’re simply faking it for attention seeking reasons.
Who really has the time and energy these days to fake depression? Think about that for a moment.
The thing I’ve noticed in the Indo-Caribbean community when it comes to mental health is that they hold false notions surrounding the subject. I am not referring to all Indo-Caribbean people. However, there is still quite a few who hold tightly to myths regarding this issue. These myths may include any of the following below:
Myth: Mental health conditions are uncommon.
Myth: Mental illness is the result of bad parenting.
Myth: People are “faking it” or doing it for attention.
Myth: Mental illness is caused by personal weakness.
Myth: Different races are more prone to mental illness.
Myth: You’re just sad, not depressed.
Myth: You don’t need therapy. Just take a pill.
Myth: People with mental illness can’t handle work or school.
Myth: People with mental health conditions are violent and dangerous.
Myth: Psychiatric disorders are not real medical issues.
Myth: You can never get better from a mental illness.
Myth: If you feel better, you are cured.
Myth: People with mental illness are “damaged” and different.
Myth: A person can treat themselves with positive thought and prayer.
Myth: You can’t help someone with mental illness.
As someone who personally struggled with mental health issues over the years, I can attest that it is a very real problem that exists and does not discriminate against ethnicity, gender, etc. I think a lot of Indo-Caribbeans think that them or their families will never experience mental health related issues. For some, this may be true and for other people, they may be prone to it depending on their life circumstances, genetics, or other factors.
Mental health issues presents themselves differently from person to person. As for me, I’ve had my own struggles with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. And no it wasn’t something I could have just snapped out of, contrary to popular belief by many Indo-Caribbeans. It was a process that I had to go through, which involved medicines, seeing a therapist regularly and even regulating my emotions using different techniques that I learned over time.
My history of trauma has increased my awareness of the way we view mental health within the Indo-Caribbean community.
I wanted to expand this awareness which influenced my decision to author a poetry book that takes the reader on my journey through trauma, more specifically sexual abuse and how I was able to heal myself using different modalities including therapy, creating art, exercising, etc. Below is the introduction of my poetry book Forget Me Nots. If you would like to read more about my journey to healing after trauma, copies are available for purchase on Amazon.
I remember calling my mom that afternoon. I encountered another crying spell and my concentration dwindled. I couldn’t even remember my way back home, with disorientation starting to make its debut. Thankfully, Google maps led me back home. I recall not being able to perform double digit addition mentally. Do you know what that feels like for someone who was mathematically inclined to not be able to problem solve due to a nervous breakdown? It was crippling. I felt like my life had spun out of control. That semester, I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life, which involved withdrawing from college for what would have been my last semester.
By the grace of God, I was able to complete my internship in a year, graduating summa cum laude. However, the battle didn’t end there. I endured health issues that kept altering. Some days were dreaded and others, slightly better. On my worst days when I often contemplated if to go on, I remembered how it all happened.
If I could have gone back to December 2016, I would have stayed home and never visited Guyana. I would have spared my mental health the trauma that followed after the exchange in a domino effect.
The place I once called “home” will never be the same for me.
I am on a journey of healing and restoration and this is only the beginning. I felt compelled to share my journey of sexual abuse and trauma in the hopes of protecting both adult and young women from being a statistic. Mothers, I urge you to have open conversations with your children, educating them on consent, withdraw of consent, and sexual health. We are living in the age where prevention is being preached, so it’s time we take a stand to protect and defend our daughters and sisters, both near and far.
Sexual abuse is a subject that is close to my heart. It is a tender and sensitive subject. The trauma that followed cut so deep that even my wounds would often reappear years later. However, I felt as if I would be doing a disservice to myself and the world if I didn’t take my pain and transform it into something that could be shared. Authoring my story allowed me to revisit my wounds and disinfect it. I began to feel empowered in being authentic and telling my truth, a truth that wielded potential in creating a larger awareness and even conversation within the Indo Caribbean community upon reading my publication.
My original intention in writing my book remains the same today: to bring hope and healing to those who have experienced sexual abuse or any form of abuse, whether it’s physical, emotional, etc.
Additionally, it’s imperative for women to be educated on resources and/or services that are available in their communities that may assist in their process of healing.