October 12 2015
It was World Mental Health Day on October 10, and www.asianculturevulture.com and journalist-presenter Attika Choudhary, who works for the BBC and B4U Music made a video, ‘Depression In The South Asian Community: The Hidden Illness’ this summer with Youtube star Parle Patel about identifying depression in older South Asian males and tackling the stigma around it…we got a chance to (finally) talk to her about it…
www.asianculturevulture (ACV): What made you want to make this video?
Attika Choudhary (AC) and Parle Patel (PP): We had talked about the subject before and we really felt there was a lack of awareness and discussion and while it had started on Twitter, we were convinced we wanted to address it and break down the barriers.
PP: I have suffered from depression and anxiety myself, so I had some personal insight into the issues. We don’t want people to have to suffer in silence, talk about it and get help. There is nothing wrong with saying you need help or support.
ACV: What made you want to make a video and cover it in this docu-drama style?
AC: I am a broadcast journalist and Parle is a YouTube creator, so it seemed natural for us to collaborate in this way.
PP: We wanted something accessible that everybody could relate to – young and old and drama is a great way to engage people’s interest and so the combination seemed ideal. We are both quite creative and wanted to come up with something that would have impact and show how easy it is to miss signs of depression or anxiety. It can just look like someone being a bit down or nervous but often it’s something deeper and those people proper support and help.
ACV: Why do you think it’s important to address this issue and for people to identify this illness in their loved ones?
AC&PP: It’s incredible how much misery and damage it can cause. Close family relationships can be destroyed by people totally misunderstanding what’s happening and suicide in the family is one of the worst traumas a human can experience. We wanted to raise awareness of depression not just in the South Asian community, but in communities in general. Our experience has been that depression is often ignored or suppressed by older men who are going through it, but also sometimes by the younger generation, because of the social stigma.
ACV: There are particular issues within South Asian families you feel that make it worse?
AC&PP: We want families to be able to discuss depression and other mental illness issues openly and calmly. Often, many don’t accept it is even an illness and see the symptoms as a sign of weakness. Many others also go into denial and can’t face up to what’s happening and worry far too much what others might think. It shouldn’t be like that at all. Men don’t come forward enough and many don’t talk about anxiety or issues they might have – because in many cultures it’s seen as being slightly pathetic and inadequate and they don’t seek help.
In our experience and from anecdotal evidence, we believe there are quite likely to be far more men in the South Asian community suffering from anxiety and depression than official figures suggest.
ACV: There’s nothing wrong in seeking help, advice or support, is there? And talking to people, especially your GP, about your general sense of well-being and anything that may be affecting it?
AC&PP: Exactly, it really was another reason for us to make this video, to tell people, especially older men and their families, that it’s okay to seek support and advice. Please don’t suffer in silence – and if you find it difficult to talk to loved ones about these mental issues, your doctor or charities in this area of health can help. We just don’t want people to feel even more isolated and we need to reassure them that there are people who have some idea of what they are going through and are there to help.
ACV: You both organised this video yourselves and funded it yourselves. Was that difficult?
AC&PP: It was, as we both had work and professional commitments and we were doing this in our spare time. It took nine months and it really felt like we were giving birth. But the more we looked into it and told people, the more people who came forward and revealed they had issues and urged us to address the problem. We had a small budget, but wanted to produce something that was professional and convincing and all the people involved from the actors to people who helped with transport and food made it all possible and we’re very grateful for their support and input.
ACV: It’s been a little while since you released it (a bit embarrassingly), we alerted readers/followers to the video quite soon after it was published on Youtube but for one reason and another, we weren’t able to follow it with the story we wanted and it’s taken a while to catch up with you both…and we know you’ve had a great response…
AC&PP: The video has had a tremendous response – more than 12,000 views (on date of publication) and we went on BBC News24 and other TV channels to talk about the issues and we know a lot of South Asian communities responded both here and from abroad. We want to continue to spread the message.
ACV: We want to congratulate you and Parle on a great piece of work – that is so important and vital to the nation’s health and wellbeing and we think it encourages anyone to come forward and talk about issues they may be facing.
AC&PP: There is still much to do and we would just like to remind anyone reading that depression is an illness with real symptoms and its effects on people can have very profound and painful consequences. We want people to talk about this subject and convince everyone it is an illness and that people suffering need our support and sympathy. I believe we should live the change that we wish to see in the world. Thank you.
See Attika’s and Parle’s video below
Help out there
Anxiety and panic http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/#.Vhrs1Gsl9lg