By Nancy Tran, Director of Radio TNT
I am proud to be a part of a community that is so full of love and support. When someone receives a new physical health diagnosis in the Vietnamese community – whether for a long-term condition like hypertension, or an urgent illness like cancer – our community will come together to provide them and their family with support. We encourage them to take their medications, regularly see their doctors and to change their lifestyle to best support their health and well-being.
It’s just as important for our community to provide this same compassion and support when a family member or friend is diagnosed with and/or experiencing a mental health condition.
Mental illnesses, just like physical illnesses, can happen to anyone – no matter their age, background, or gender. They are real and not a product of imagination or choice, and can have devastating consequences without treatment. Unfortunately, members of the Vietnamese community feel significant shame and fear around mental health conditions.
There is fear that they will bring shame to the family, that their symptoms are the result of personal or ancestral sins, or that this illness is a reflection of their moral character. As a result, many of our friends and loved ones will self-isolate, hide or deny their illness, rather than seeking medical treatment or speaking out about their symptoms.
The reality is that self-isolation will not make these symptoms or conditions go away. In fact, their symptoms may get worse when they are left untreated.
To make sure our community gets the medical treatment they need to be healthy – both physically and mentally – we have to bring the same concern and support to mental health conditions that we do with physical illnesses.
Often, this support will be very similar to the care we provide for physical conditions: Do they need help driving to their medical appointments? Can we make their lives less stressful by bringing them pre-made meals for a few weeks or helping with household tasks?
Other times, support can mean giving your friend a call to check in with them, and just being there to listen without judgement. Or, perhaps holding their hand when they call a counselor for the first time or watching their kids while they take a walk or run errands. It’s what we would do if our friend or loved one was battling with an illness like cancer. Our response shouldn’t be any different if they are living with a brain condition like depression.
As a community, we can help to fight the shame and stigma around mental illness by showing understanding and learning more about a mental health diagnosis and what symptoms look like. By educating ourselves and each other, we can learn how people with a mental health diagnosis can heal and live normal, healthy lives when equipped with the right treatment and support. That’s why it’s imperative and (sometimes life-saving) to work together and care for those in our community living with mental health conditions.
To learn more about reducing stigma among the Vietnamese community, there are great resources on the StopStigmaSacramento.org community website here, including a webpage for the Vietnamese community here on reducing the stigma around mental health conditions. English and Vietnamese conversation-starters are available here if you are unsure how to connect with someone who may be struggling with their mental health.