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HomeHealthMental WellnessAre You Depressed and Don’t Know It?

Are You Depressed and Don’t Know It?

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Depression is a major health challenge that is experienced by immigrants. Sadly, most don’t know it and many don’t acknowledge it. Marc Schenker, the Director of Migration Health Research Center, University of California, calls it “the perfect storm for immigrants.”

Why is it so called?

Immigrants including most asylum seekers, leave a “settled” life in a familiar environment to relocate to a new and largely unfamiliar environment. They start to battle with adaptation, acceptance and all sorts of integration and financial issues in their new environment. Many experience dashed hopes, failed expectations which most often creates stress within the family and their immediate environment. This results in frustration, irritability in all its shades and uncontrolled anger. It becomes a vicious cycle. The stressors multiply and so do depressive traits.

The World Health Organization defines Mental Health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.”

Depression is when everything feels too hard. When you feel so low that things you previously enjoyed no longer hold that same joy. You find it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. You drag yourself through each day. You find it difficult to even go to bed at night. The low is so low that it seems to take over. People always say you should talk to someone. Well, how do you really put words on something so hard that you don’t even understand yourself? How do you explain to someone that you want to live your life but don’t know how you can?

I bet you would agree that the stress an immigrant faces is much larger than the “normal stresses of life”.

Jannah Walshe, psychotherapist and mental health advocate, in an article she titled, “Depression: An Open Letter to Someone Struggling”, explains depression this way:

“It slowly takes over a person’s life to the point where they forget how it all began. It is insidious, creeping up and building up over time. Little unnoticeable things change at first, leading to bigger changes. Then, as if out of the blue, that famous black cloud is overhead.

Depression is when everything feels too hard. When you feel so low that things you previously enjoyed no longer hold that same joy. You find it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. You drag yourself through each day. You find it difficult to even go to bed at night. The low is so low that it seems to take over. People always say you should talk to someone. Well, how do you really put words on something so hard that you don’t even understand yourself? How do you explain to someone that you want to live your life but don’t know how you can?

I’ve been there. It’s enlightening to realize that all those times that I was trading blames, believing that people around me were inconsiderate and irritable, I was at the precipice of depression.

Depression is initially your reaction. It’s a reaction to a life that you never imagined would be yours. A reaction to stress and a seeming inability to change your situation.”

Sounds like something that has happened to you or anyone you know?

I’ve been there. It’s enlightening to realize that all those times that I was trading blames, believing that people around me were inconsiderate and irritable, I was at the precipice of depression.

You can only know what you know! And that’s profound.

Seek help when you notice those little changes that make you withdrawn and less agreeable with people around you. Our cultural background most times prevents us from seeking help. We see it as something shameful and quickly associate it to “were” (madness) as called in the South of Nigeria. Depression however is not the same as losing your mind.

Don’t allow your cultural background, spiritual beliefs, education or mis-education, friends, family, fear, shame, etc. to prevent you from stepping forward and seeking the needed help to take care of your mental wellness.

If you’re unsure of how to go about seeking help, you can send an email to us at: thrive [at] mmigrantlife.ca or join our online community to hang out and discuss issues surrounding your mental health and other issues at https://immigrantlife.ca/community

This article was carefully crafted by Yinka Bakare based on episode 75 of The Immigrant Life podcast.

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