My experience with mental health in Asian culture.

And the journey to getting better.

All the stigmas that you’ve heard about on Western media are magnified, tenfold worse in Asia, and what makes it worse is the culture itself and the lack of information.

Depression was, still is in many places, not a real thing in Eastern culture. Every illness relating to emotions or the brain are dismissed completely, and patients with schizophrenia are being avoided, they’re simply insane. If it’s bad in Western culture, it’s not being mentioned or recognised at all in the East.

The reality.

I’m sure my mum has some anxiety disorder and mild depression that she’s not aware of. When I talked about my depression coming back, or that it never left, she blamed herself; and that all she did was telling me to focus more on my diet and exercise more and trying to cut down my medications. That’s everything she knows of mental health. The attention is there, but it’s not enough.

One more instance is that there was one, ONE psychiatrist in Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest and most developed city of the country) in 2012 when I needed one. I had panic attacks every day, and it was becoming dangerous for me to commute.

The diagnosis was very vague. We don’t have enough people and the knowledge; almost no one is talking about it, not nearly above enough. There are not enough psychologists or psychiatrists because people don’t get paid enough for the jobs. We don’t even know where to look for information. As of 2019, I could count the number of mental health clinics on my two hands.

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City.

The suicidal people are seen as weak and selfish. Even worse, there are parts of Asia where people consider mental illness is the work of the devils. This conception needs to be addressed. There’s nothing wrong with using religions as a tool to get better, but mental health needs to be assessed and dealt with by the government.

So shout out for all the undiagnosed mentally ill Asians that have been told that their illness is not real. I can tell you that they are genuine and there’s nothing wrong with seeking help. You’re worthwhile, and you deserve love. You are the strongest people I know because you’re fighting with it every day.

Moving forward.

In 2012, I moved to Australia and since have been diagnosed with ADHD and ASD or Asperger’s. The first diagnosis of ADHD made so much sense even though it was unexpected. ASD, on the other hand, was more difficult for me to accept because I ‘masked’ too well. It’s been proven that women and people assigned as female at birth are diagnosed much later in life and total fly under the radar.

This fact makes me sometimes wonder, if I’d been diagnosed earlier in life, and not in my 20s, was my life going to be better? How better? How different?

Luckily, I have a very support system, my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my beautiful partner, thus by understanding myself better, my anxiety and depression have worsened. My family in Vietnam still don’t know or understand these diagnoses, despite me trying. But maybe that’s okay. The work I do is to be opened and frank about who I am and to spread the awareness. Firstly to the people in my immediate circles, and then to the friends I have in my home country.

And that should be enough, shouldn’t it?