Culture Versus Self
The Battle Between Cultural Stigmas of Mental Health and Self-Preservation
By: Sagrario Torres
Convinced that it was a sign of weakness to express vulnerability, I opposed the idea of opening up about my emotions and the problems I had in school.
I grew up with the notion that American culture was “soft” in its reaction to the challenges life presented. The idea of sharing my feelings, of it being acceptable to cry to family or friends, was never introduced to me at home. Surrounded by “No seas chillona” (“Don’t be a crybaby”) and “Cuida a tu hermano” (“Take care of your brother”), internalizing my emotions was what I knew best.
Complex familial matters took effect on my emotional wellbeing which in turn hurt my physical health. I didn’t say anything because I believed there was strength in not “burdening” my parents with my own struggles on top of the circumstances we were already experiencing.
The realization that my younger brother was experiencing the same pain was what gave me the strength to open up to my parents. Being the eldest child of hardworking immigrants, I had to remind myself that the pressure to be unfazed and resilient in the face of adversity comes from a culture that is still understanding the detrimental effects of mental health stigmas. I made the mistake of equating my parents to the culture behind these stigmas but was contrarily received with love upon telling them the truth.
Circumstances vary for every individual. Interculturally, however, there is a common theme of holding the stigmatic belief that seeking help for mental health is a sign of weakness and selfishness.
Understand that it takes strength and courage to be the first to speak up, even if it’s for yourself and not the people you want to be strong for. After all, there is no greater example of strength than to be brave enough to share your own story.