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Forums / Multicultural experiences / How to tell your Parents that you have Mental Health Issues?

Topic: How to tell your Parents that you have Mental Health Issues?

6 posts, 0 answered
  1. blueskye
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Hong Kong
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    blueskye avatar
    67 posts
    31 December 2017

    Depression and anxiety can be seen as taboo in a family household, as with many multicultural households.

    ** So how can you tell your parents that you have mental health issues - depression, anxiety, etc? **

    With me, it didn't go down well back then. My parents saw it as being attention-seeking and immature.

    I wish I did it differently. If I could re-do time, I would have first told a family friend's 'aunty/uncle' who understood what mental health issues were. They would then pass it on to my parents. My parents would have listened if it came from another senior.

    1 person found this helpful
  2. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Greece
    • LGBTI
    Donte' avatar
    845 posts
    31 December 2017 in reply to blueskye

    Good question blueskye,

    I'll talk from parent's perspective. My daughter suffers from anxiety and depression and so do I. It's difficult when you battling your own issues to be attentive to your children. With me, I tried to see if she wants to talk and if she needs me around. Tried to be as available as possible and often tried to link her into various supports like chatlines, lifeline and beyondblue. It hasn't got terribly well. But I linked her with a female doctor and she liked that. Eventually she started antidepressants and went to a couple of counselling sessions which she found unhelpful so she stopped. I think as a parent you know, you can tell that your child is unhappy. The difficulty from the parent's perspective is to distinguish between normal adolescent behavior, attention seeking, and mental illness and when and how to intervene and if appropriate. From one hand you want them to find their own ways with coping and develop resilience and independence but on the other hand you struggle to find ways to help and bring them closer to you instead of pushing them away, especially during their teens when they're meant to becoming independent and drifting away from the nest anyway. It's not easy. as a single parent without extended family in Australia and not any supports I struggled much over her teenage years. I've always believed people learn by experiences and so encouraged her to explore and learn for herself. But there's definitely no right or wrong way and what works for some may not work for others. But no one really teaches you how to be a child or how to be a parent. We are all learning and make it up as we go along and hope for thee best .

  3. Hayfa
    beyondblue Connect Mentor
    • beyondblue Connect is a FREE service that puts people living in Victoria's Greater Dandenong community, in touch with mentors. They can support your wellbeing and help you achieve your goals.
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Lebanon
    Hayfa avatar
    120 posts
    31 December 2017 in reply to blueskye

    Hi blueskye and Donte',

    What an important question. Certainly this is a very difficult thing to discuss and accept in many multicultural communities.
    I think you are right blueskye, someone older with a respected social and professional standing could assist in telling the news to parents however, I think the best way is to openly discuss with parents. I am a parent to four kids between the ages 12 to 23 years, so as you can imagine there is no lack of drama in our house.
    I think that it is never what you want to say but how you say it that can make all the difference between an open, understanding discussion or a closed and stressful one. Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy, parents will support you and try to help even if they find it hard to accept the concept, no parent wants to see their child suffer and they will eventually finds ways to take away the suffering.
    From my work with multicultural communities over the years, I have always observed that parents new to this country yearn to learn from their children, they tend to listen intently to any thing of value that a child may bring home from an authority such as teachers, doctors etc. since they feel that the children are in a position to advance their learning and living in a new country and any new knowledge they bring into the house can be beneficial to know.

    Every family is different but generally the same patterns seem to surface in most multicultural communities. As a child of migrants myself, I have always found that there are clashes at the start but then when the civil dialogue comes into play, the new clearer meaning and understanding becomes apparent and eventually the support.
    Bearing in mind also that there is now much more resources in different languages about health and mental wellbeing that has slowly started to break down the barriers.
    Parents really do care and try but they just need a little more awareness and education about the issues affecting their children and the environment they are living in as well as a kind approach to initiate the discussion.

    2 people found this helpful
  4. J.M.12345
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Lebanon
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    J.M.12345 avatar
    46 posts
    1 January 2018 in reply to blueskye

    Hi blueskye!

    Thanks for bringing up an important question. Family has the potential to play a significant role in someone's recovery from mental illness, and this could be a positive or negative role depending on the way the family view mental illness.

    In my experience, I found that I didn't tell my parents I was struggling. There was another issue, you see. I myself didn't know I was struggling and didn't realise I was suffering from an illness. I was only overwhelmed by my emotions and weariness. I felt like I was losing my mind.

    Initially, my parents similarly didn't understand mental illness and did not know how to react. We had countless arguments and fights before we both came to the understanding that something was wrong. In fact, in my experience, they realised something was wrong before I did. So I didn't really "tell them" per se. We sort of worked it out the hard way.

    By that time though, I had heard it all. It's attention-seeking. Youth. Ungratefulness. At some stages, I believed those things myself because of how much it was said to me. But luckily for me, we have all undergone a growth and learning experience as a family and we all are well aware of mental illness and how it's just that - an illness. I think this change is reflective of what Hayfa mentioned about the way an initial clash can turn into constructive dialogue about mental health despite existing cultural stigmas.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience where you didn't realise you had a mental illness?

    Also wanted to add my two cents' worth about the whole notion of "attention-seeking". Sometimes some of the things people do when they have mental are indeed seeking attention, seeking attention to get help. I think"attention-seeking" is not necessarily a bad thing. Outside the mental illness context, seeking attention might also be asking for more emotional support from a parent for example. But now I'm delving into parenting - and I'm not a parent so I wouldn't know a thing! Donte' you'd be able to agree/disagree with me?

    Honoured to be reading all these insightful posts guys!

    xx Josette

    2 people found this helpful
  5. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Greece
    • LGBTI
    Donte' avatar
    845 posts
    2 January 2018 in reply to Hayfa
    Very good points Hayfa and I tend to agree overall, apart from parents who are abusive and violent. There are situations in every cultural group where a parent doesn't unfortunately want the best for their child or have the child interests as a priority, especially when drugs and alcohol are a part of the daily reality of that family. There are many vulnerable, disadvantaged children who suffer by neglect or abuse and this happens to all communities and groups. In an environment like this, it is harder of course for children to approach their parents and seek help, especially if they are the main source of distress. There are also numerous parents who are not properly diagnosed and/or do not adhere to treatments/management of their mental illness and that makes it a very hard environment for any child to grow up in. The various cultural notions that exist within many groups about gender, role of mothers/women, fathers/men, destiny, authority and discipline etc. can make it very difficult for a child to disclose to their parents about the way they feel and their mental health. Through my work over the years as a teacher and welfare worker I have seen numerous cases of very challenging situations where cultural and religious notions and belief systems made it almost impenetrable to support families and created barriers to accessing counselling or other supports even within the same language group. Of course the majority of families wouldn't fall under this category, however, even if one does, then it's worth discussing i think.
  6. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Greece
    • LGBTI
    Donte' avatar
    845 posts
    2 January 2018 in reply to J.M.12345

    Hi Josette,

    Good points! Most of us don't know that we are dealing with an actual illness. Usually it's our environment/other people that we compare ourselves to as we grow up and especially during adolescence where blending in and being one with our peers and accepted by the group is pivotal to our emotional, social, mental development. We are all constantly defining ourselves by looking around us. Most people just feel overwhelmed and tired or angry or emotional and believe they are super sensitive or that there is something wrong but they don't suspect an 'illness'. I guess this can vary in different generations and cultures too. The attention-seeking element that you mentioned is an absolute normal cry during various developmental stages where you want approval and acceptance while also simultaneously have a need to rebel and breakdown the authority or establishment so you can develop your own meaning and values and guidelines for your own life - something absolutely necessary in the human development as we approach adulthood and maturity. We are not our parents. We don't have to be. We are ourselves. On the other hand though, it could be genuinely a cry for help. Children generally try to get attention to feel all the necessary things like validation, adoration, acceptance, love etc and also to develop boundaries, see how much they can play-up before they are faced with consequences. This is a pivotal learning in the development of everyone's life. So it's difficult to know when to intervene and how much of the attention-seeking behavior is normal and how much it could be an illness that needs support. If it's self-harm or harming others or property etc then surely intervention is needed. Learning self-respect and accepting that we are indeed worthy and good enough is a hard thing and it doesn't happen overnight. In certain cultural or religious settings some have to fight long and hard to overcome beliefs that are negative and hinder our development. But it's still possible. Especially as we move ourselves apart from these groups and learn to associate within healthier circles and mingle with different cultures and groups. When we reach out, like we are doing here, and give ourselves the opportunity to explore the issues openly and without the fear of what others are going to say. Luckily, in this country we have chosen to live we can make a breakthrough and have the available supports to do so when and if we are ready. :)

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