The goal of Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM) is to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and ultimately stop the stigma associated with mental illness. The month of May is not only MHAM, but also Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI).
Lina Lee is part of the Sacramento County Speakers Bureau and aims to inspire those who are living with a mental health condition such as herself. For over two decades, Lina has been living with depression and anxiety disorder and is constantly learning more about her condition and researching different types of tools to manage her depression. Life became easier for Lina when she took back control of her life and talked to her psychiatrist about medication, which made a world of difference in her mental health journey.
Lina not only has a personal connection to MHAM, but also AAPI Heritage Month. Growing up in a traditional Chinese household where she was quiet, obedient, and a respectful student, the topic of mental health was seen as taboo and something that her family didn’t have information about. Lina, who grew up in Maryland, also had to overcome the prejudice she faced growing up as one of the few Asian people in her whole school.
Recently, Lina has taken a big step in her mental health journey by traveling the world. Even though traveling to a place you have never been before can be nerve-wracking for some, Lina embraced the experience and pushed herself out of her comfort zone with the mentality of “you never know until you try.” Learn more about Lina’s tips and tricks to overcoming mental health barriers and how you can break them down and live life to the fullest:
- What does Mental Health Awareness Month mean to you?
Mental Health Awareness Month is in May and it is also AAPI Month, so it is pretty special. I am very happy and proud of how much mental health awareness has taken place and that there is this month dedicated to it. There are many resources available in Sacramento if only people take the first step and ask for help.
- Can you talk about your journey with depression and anxiety and how you overcame it?
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 24. I kind of had a feeling when I was in high school when I took a psychology class, that something was different about me. I found myself having a lot of low days, days that were hard for me to get motivated to do things. Throughout those years of college, I learned more about it. I got married when I was 23. At age 24, I experienced my first hospitalization and learned I had bipolar depression. I started seeing a therapist for my anxiety and taking medication for my bipolar depression.
- When you are feeling anxious, what are some things that you do to help stay motivated and protect your overall wellness?
I find journalling very helpful. It helps me to think things through and write them down. Another technique I use is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Some of the tips are to write a pros and cons list. Then you want to make another column of what happens if you don’t do those things so you can see it from a different perspective. Other things I do to cope are exercise, get enough sleep – sleep is really important – eat healthy, and I definitely see my therapist and take my medication.
- You have mentioned that depression was a taboo topic in the Chinese culture that you grew up in. How did that experience affect your journey with your mental health, and do you still feel like others might have the same experience as you today?
I do, and I publicly share my story a lot and people relate to it. They understand that depression is a taboo topic in their culture, so it is hard to step out of that and see the resources that are needed. My mom is very supportive but then she says some things that are very hurtful, and she doesn’t understand or fully comprehend what that really means. There is also a lack of information. In the Chinese culture, many of those who were born overseas in the mid-1950s grew up in poverty, so they didn’t have resources or education available about mental health. Their priorities were finding food, shelter, and clothing.
- What can loved ones do to help someone in their life who is struggling with anxiety and/or depression?
What I encourage loved ones to do is learn more about the topic so they can be able to respond to their mood swings or lack of motivation. There are also support groups out there for loved ones, friends, and family for those who have mental illness and those are awesome resources out there to feel like you have a community where you can share, and other people can understand what you are going through. There are also online support groups that are available, and a lot of people you can connect with.
- You recently started traveling alone to see more of the world; where did you go and what was that experience like for your mental health?
I have struggled with depression for many years and traveling has been known to open your eyes and experience new things and see people and experience different cultures. Experiencing how other people had their struggles and what brings them happiness was a big motivation. The places I have been to so far are New York, Boston, Vermont, Paris, Japan, and China. It was very helpful to be able to see new things. You never know until you try, and you have to take that leap of faith. I know traveling can be expensive or you might not have childcare and there’s always a maybe later in life type of thing. I encourage [people] to take that step and especially those with depression, if you are waiting for yourself to feel better that may not happen, versus taking that leap of faith and traveling and experiencing versus waiting for you to feel better to do it.
Next stop for Lina: Thailand!
The biggest takeaway from Lina is that you are never alone. There are always people out there whether that is in the form of a support group, family, friends, doctors, or therapists there is always someone out there who you can talk to. It is easy to feel alone when you are suffering from a mental health condition, but there are others who understand what you are going through. For Lina, seeking help and taking action was the way that she overcame her depression and ultimately became stronger. Get out there, join a club or a support group, do your research, and remember to take care of yourself and stop the stigma!
View photos from Lina’s recent travels
Join Lina for weekly exercise, home-cooked meals, and game nights! To participate, please email: email@example.com.
- Mondays at 6:15pm: Building Meaningful Friendship
- Tuesdays at 6:15pm: Mental Health Support Group on Zoom
- Wednesdays at 6:15pm: Cooking class @ 868 Florin Rd in Greenhaven
- Fridays at 6:15pm: Pickleball or Romantic Comedy Movie Night
- Saturdays at 11am: Lunch cooking Class
- Sundays 9am: Greenhaven Power Walking
- Sunday at 5:50pm: Co-ed Basketball or Tennis @ Didion School
For more information on mental health services and support, visit the Stop Stigma Sacramento resources page here.