From Darkness Into Light

on March 22, 2012

by Saman

My family moved to Canada when I was fourteen, and that's when all the trouble started. I had been a happy and well-adjusted teen back home, excelling in school and extracurricular activities, and enjoying a full life surrounded by friends and loving family. Migration brought a constellation of stressful changes with it: a reduced standard of living, financial strain, as well as language and culture shock. In the midst of this stormy adjustment period, my parents' marriage started to fall apart. They became unavailable at a time when I needed them most. Meanwhile, I was having considerable difficulty at school, struggling to fit in and feel a sense of belonging. Unable to cope with the demands of my new life, I plunged into a deep depression.

I had an acute sense of something being terribly wrong. I felt as though I was not alive but simply going through the motions of living. Getting out of bed, doing school work or anything social exhausted me. I lost my appetite, eating less and less until I became thin and frail. Each day I felt worse than the last, and when I cried myself to sleep at night, I could not imagine my life ever improving. My self-esteem took a big hit, and I no longer saw myself as bright, beautiful and capable. I started to think that I was not worthwhile and nothing I did mattered. I lived with constant heartache, weighed down by emotional pain.

I tried to reach out to my parents, complaining of exhaustion and emotional drain. They kept on insisting that there was nothing wrong with me, that I just needed to get out more. It's not that my parents were not empathic; they just had no idea what they were dealing with or how they could help. Having a mental health issue is highly stigmatized in my ethnic community and there are many barriers to seeking help, including lack of education and culturally sensitive services. My depression was especially hard to detect because I was high functioning in school despite feeling miserable. I was hurting, but the pain was not readily apparent. What got overlooked was the fact that I was severely isolated, and had no meaningful connections to my school or community.

I got better of course. It was a matter of time and circumstances. In university I found a field of study that I really loved, made new friends and became an active member of the campus community through volunteering. My self-concept improved and so did my outlook on life. Having a mental illness has changed me permanently. I like to think that I am more compassionate as a result, and more willing to see and respond to pain in others. I am grateful to have found my way into mental health work, where I have the privilege of sharing my story and spreading a message of hope and healing.

The challenges I faced are only one of a myriad of mental health issues that concern immigrant youth. I invite you, as caring family members, friends, teachers and professionals to join our educational session on "The Mental Health of Immigrant Youth". We hope to bring you stories of immigrant youth, and share with you the latest findings from research, as well as best practices on how to respond to the needs of this population.
 

Comments

Thanks for a great read, Saman.

- Andrea (The Kaleidoscope)

22/03/2012

I am happy that Saman had the courage to deal with her depression and now has a chance to give back to the community. Being a new immigrant my children also her age went through what she went through and as a parent I also did what her parents did. It was difficult to understand what they are going through because as a new immigrant you as a parent are going through your own stressors of finding a job, lowering of your living standards, going to school as your credentials are not recognized, financial hardships etc.. The parents are in a place where they are not even present for themselves leave alone for anybody else. As an immigrant parent not understanding their child's mental health and not being supportive can have long term effect on their own mental health. They have continuous guilt and sometimes suffer from depression themselves. Education is an important component to deal with this.

29/03/2012
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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.