South Asian Youth Talk to Reduce Mental Health Stigma

November 27, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

As an ambassador with the South Asian Youth Mental Health (SAYMH) program, Jashandeep Gill is part of a team of young people working to reduce stigma in B.C. by highlighting the importance of talking about mental health and substance use challenges.

Drawing on his personal experiences as a young immigrant to Canada, Jashandeep shows that strong personal networks, open conversations, and education about mental health and substance use challenges can make a huge difference to people who may require support. Read Jashandeep’s insights below.


What inspired you to get involved with the South Asian Youth Mental Health Ambassadors?

"I came to Canada from India in 2018. This transition was tough, as I was suddenly in a community where I didn’t know anyone. I was working five hours a day to earn extra money, and under pressure to get good grades at school. In that same year, my maternal uncle died of an overdose. I was feeling very lonely and wasn’t able to manage it all and started to experience depression.

"I decided to start talking to people. I started to make friends and shared my problems with them. Conversations with my friends, support from my teacher and sports helped me to cope with my stress.

"After these experiences I decided I wanted to create awareness about the stigma of mental health issues and drug overdose in our community so got involved with SAYMH ambassadors."


How do you think we can reduce stigma?

"I think every stigma in any society can be reduced by conversation.

When we talk about our thoughts and problems, we can find a lot of helpful solutions. And we should always remember that with one smile and being open, we can change someone's life.

"We must make everyone feel included and important.

"SAYMHA are doing lots of different things to reduce stigma. I started an initiative in my school to make grade 10 kids aware about the drug overdose and mental health issues in teenagers. Also, we’ve been doing radio and TV interviews, and attending conferences and events, such as BC Lions games, to talk to people about mental health and substance use and deliver the message that it’s important to have conversations about these topics."


Why is it important for youth, and youth from South Asian backgrounds, to talk about mental health and substance use?

"I feel that young people are caught up in a rat race. Everyone is concerned about their grades, future careers or other things that they forget to take care of themselves. This stress can make us feel lonely and lead to mental health issues and substance use. These feelings can be like a swamp, and that’s why there must be conversations about mental health and substance use. If we don’t talk about these problems, young people would never know how they can deal with them.

"I feel that in the South Asian community, it's tough to talk to anyone about a mental health issue. People often struggle to understand what the term “mental health” means and feel a lot of shame if people are affected by mental health challenges, which makes it harder for people to ask for help. That’s why it’s very important to teach people about stigma and that it’s OK to need support.


What would you say to young people who might be experiencing mental health or substance use challenges, but are nervous about reaching out for help?

"I would give young people experiencing mental health or substance use challenges this piece of advice; every person on this earth is valuable, and we want everyone to live a healthier life. No matter what you face, what you suffer from, people around you can help and support you.

But be brave because you are the only person who can ask for that help. The only thing you need is faith in yourself.

The South Asian Youth Mental Health Ambassador program is part of the South Asian Mental Health Alliance. Learn more.

StopOverdose BC resources are now available in Punjabi, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese to ensure South Asian and Chinese Canadian communities can access information and resources to encourage conversations about mental health and substance use, and that language is never a barrier to support.