“Amma, I don’t feel well.”
There comes a point in time in every mother’s life when she hears these words. At this very moment, she drops everything and her maternal instincts automatically kick in. Whether it involves making home remedies, setting doctor appointments, hunting down Vaporub, or even something as simple as putting a smile on the child's face. When parents see a problem, they will go above and beyond to ensure their child is safe and healthy. But what if they can’t visibly see any problems? Not all illnesses manifest symptoms that you can see or touch.
To the parents of the Tamil community, open your eyes. Please.
A few days ago, I got a call from my cousin. She was absolutely at a loss of words, and what she was about to share with me would also leave me breathless. A young man hung lifeless in front of her school that day. I was in complete disbelief. What added to my horror was the number of people that called my mom right after they found out. News and gossip spread like wildfire in the Tamil community. With every phone call, my mother assumed that she was gaining more insight into what may have actually happened. With the phone between her ear and left shoulder, she went on with her chores, but I was able to over hear her entire conversation. They were trying to decipher every possible reason for what could have happened to the young man. Relationship troubles, struggles in school, abuse, drugs, and the list went on, but not once did I hear them mention term depression.
Depression is defined as feelings of severe despondency and dejection, but it is much more than that. It is a serious mental health condition that is virtually nonexistent throughout the Tamil population. It is incredibly rare for a child raised within a Tamil household to actually approach their parents to seek help with depression. The only form of sickness is recognized in the Tamil Culture seem to be the ones that are visible to the naked eye, but it is time for this prehistoric ideology to change. It’s true that symptoms of depression are not as easily spotted by others, but there are ways that it can be diagnosed. Living with mental illnesses changes your everyday life and often may be mistaken for stress or exhaustion.
According to CAMH (2016), 40% of Canadians have shown signs of depression but have not sought medical treatment. This may be influenced by many factors, one of which are parents and their inability to understand the health status of their child. We grow up hearing stories of how our parents had to walk miles to get an education, or how hard they had to work at such a young age. We probably heard them say they hardly had money for the luxuries we have now, guilt tripping us for feeling sad about our own lives.
I admit, our Tamil parents have been through a lot, but it’s not fair to say we have it easy. Yes, we have a roof over our head, food on the table, and access to an education. However, we need our parents to understand that these are the essentials that we need in order to survive, not live a happy life. There is no point to spend your life swallowed by misery. We need our parents to understand what we’re going through and that we can’t overcome mental health challenges alone. If we can’t even talk to our own parents about our problems, how else are we supposed to conquer our battles?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to meet that young man. I am in no position to judge his decisions and actions. I can’t even begin to imagine what he was going through to drive him to take his own life. But is it so crazy to believe that if he had been able to talk to his parents, he would still be with us today? Suicide should not be looked at as an end; we can prevent this from happening to so many people by opening our minds and listening to the problems they are facing. There are many avenues to seek help. However, I strongly believe that there is no better cure than talking to our parents to help them understand what we are going through in our lives.