By Roman Romaso and Ivan Leschchuk at the Slavic Assistance Center.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light long-standing mental health issues that exist in the Russian-speaking community. Job loss, homeschooling, watching family and friends become gravely ill, and dealing with an uncertain future only exacerbated some of the mental health issues we already cope with on a regular basis.
While 1 in 5 people live with a mental health condition – such as depression or anxiety – fear and shame are preventing many members of the Russian-speaking community from seeking help or treatment. In order to support the overall health and wellness of our community, it is important that we increase education around mental health conditions and support those who may be struggling with their mental health.
The most important fact we want to share is that mental health conditions are a physical illness, like diabetes or heart disease. And like any physical illness, it’s important to talk to a doctor about your treatment options.
We know that it can be overwhelming to talk to someone about your mental health but seeking advice from your doctor is a confidential process. It is part of their job to be respectful of this information, and they will be able to help you live a happier, healthier life by providing guidance on what you can do to improve your mental health.
We also understand that many members in our community may mistake mental health conditions as a personal weakness, or as a sign of weakness in their faith – but that is not the case. The most devout community members can live with physical and mental illness. None of these illnesses are a reflection of their character, and no one should feel ashamed to ask for help or support.
In fact, prayer is an excellent tool to support mental health in conjunction with medicine, counseling, and the support and friendship from church communities. These resources can make all the difference for someone who is managing a mental health condition.
The Russian-speaking community is a very close and tight knit group. We have to use these qualities to our advantage by creating a safe place for our friends, families, and fellow community members to talk openly about their mental health. No one should suffer alone or in silence when there are treatments and support available to improve mental health. By supporting each other, we can improve the overall health and wellness of our community.
Please explore the StopStigmaSacrmaento.org website, and visit the Russian-speaking community page to find out how you can find support and show your support to others. If you are worried about the mental health of a friend or loved one, but don’t know how to reach out, you can also find some translated conversation starters here to help you open up the conversation.