Mental Health. Wow, I said it!!
This often-considered taboo topic was a lively discussion matter at our Campus Conversation (CC) held on the 6th of August at the University of Adelaide. Despite living in 2019, the majority of the Afghan community still consider Mental Health a “myth”, the negative result of which can be observed in their interactions within their families and community. This often results in depression, which they themselves are oblivious towards. In this session of CC, an interactive workshop was designed to discuss the lack of understanding/awareness of Mental Health within the Afghan Community and the major issues that are associated with it.
To begin the workshop, a brief introduction of Mental Health was presented to the audience. Then they were randomly assigned to a group of five, where they briefly researched one of the following Mental Health Disorders, which are considered ‘most common’ within the Afghan communities in Australia:
Anxiety disorders (social anxiety disorder)
Mood disorders (depression)
Substance abuse disorders
Trauma related disorders (post-traumatic stress disorder)
Participants were asked to analyse the symptoms, stigma, prevalence and any other factors that contribute.
The groups presented their posters answering the questions in many different forms as shown below,
Our next activity involved a group discussion emphasizing Mental health within the Afghan community discussing,
“Is the lack of understanding about Mental Health a serious issue within the Afghan community?”
“How factors such as family pressure, education, work etc affect our Mental Health?”
“Just us sitting here, talking about it means it’s a critical issue. Us coming from third-world countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) where mental health is heavily occupied with stigma and is not talked about, it is crucial for us youth to raise awareness and help our parents and the elderly understand that Mental Health is a ‘thing’.” – Kainat
“The lack of understanding about mental health is an issue within our community, as the majority of individuals – mainly students – suffer from stresses related to studying and not having the ability to ‘vent’ to their parents.” – Ali Cena
“As students we deal with the initial stress of studies hence with the additional feeling of shame and disappointment driven by Afghan parents’ high expectations, puts extra stress on us and often pushes us towards depression. We must not overlook these issues and find appropriate solutions and encounter them.” – Imran
It is well known that in a first world country, mental health is associated with ‘stress’ and being a ‘critical’ issue. However, in our community, when an individual finally finds the courage to open-up about his/her stress or anxiety, terms such as “sharam” and “disappointment” are often thrown at them; or a contrasting story about how “everyone in Afghanistan copes with issues ten times the size of ours, while having none of our privileges”, are told to simply shut them up. Such ignorance can be extremely dangerous towards an individual and may even drive them towards suicidal thoughts! We MUST change the ignorant views on Mental Health within our community, and needless to say, such changes start with ourselves! We need to educate our family – mainly parents – about Mental Health and clearly show them how dangerous ignoring this matter is for them and those around them.
At the workshop, we were privileged to have Sanam Ahmadzada from the University of Queensland share her Master’s research on mental health amongst the Afghan Community in Australia with us. Sanam is currently employed as a Research Officer within the Policy and Epidemiology Group of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR), and an adjunct fellow at the School of Public Health in University of Queensland (UQ).
Sanam’s research aimed to assess the mental health status, stigma and knowledge, and to identify barriers to care and help seeking behaviours in the community. If you have any questions or want to discuss the data related to the research, please contact Sanam through email.
To conclude the workshop, we had a game of Kahoot played between the audience. The purpose of this game was to summarise the main points about Mental Health and reinforce their importance onto our audience. The game was extremely competitive and tight, to say the least! The winner received a small prize presented by AATSA.
If you missed the first session do not worry, as we will be holding a second session in the near future, when you can have YOUR say about Mental Health within the Afghan community. Hope to see many more of you at our next session!
Unfortunately, due to some issues regarding, organising a speaker, the second Campus Conversation on Mental Health has been postponed for the 24th of September. However, meanwhile we will be hosting a CC on Tuesday the 27th of August, on Muharram, with the topic being, “Should Muslims hold the annual Aashura march in Australia?” Please do not hesitate to come along and share your valuable views!
Hayda Ibrahimi Campus conversation coordinator
Sajad Nazari Campus conversation team member