Mental health and shame are still far too common. Plenty of people around the world hide their mental health concerns because they are afraid of what others would think of them. This not only delays treatment but also makes people ashamed of themselves for having a mental illness. This has to change. We need to be more empathetic about each other and ourselves. 

Shaheen’s story has a secret too: her father’s schizophrenia. 

Shaheen Pasha, a Pakistani Muslim living in New York is a journalist, a mother and an assistant professor at Penn State University. She has the cultural side she was born with and the westernized side she grew up with. 

Her culture does not welcome mental illness, especially severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, which are associated with supernatural forces and madness by the lesser educated people. Growing up in such a community made her deny her father’s schizophrenia and feel ashamed about it. There was a lot of stigma. What was worse was that her own father discouraged openly talking about his illness for almost 40 years! This affected Shaheen, even after her father’s death. She kept wondering how she was going to explain to her kids what her father’s illness was. 

Then there was her rational, educated side that understood why her father felt what he did and how schizophrenia was an illness much like cancer or heart disease. She experienced a conflict because of these two sides. 

It was only when her own daughter came up to her and told her that she can hear voices in her head, that she was finally completely ready to embrace mental health and not sweep it under a rug.

Love is a bigger force than any other thing on Earth. So, for the sake of love, embrace mental health. Care about yourself and others who battle mental illness everyday. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Together we can overcome those battles.

Minority Mental Health; Schizophrenia

Shehani (this blog post was created using the qualitative research curated by LAGOM’s Malindra Jayarathne)

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