How Youth Can Help Reduce Stigma

January 14, 2020. Article by: Government of B.C.

As an ambassador with the South Asian Youth Mental Health (SAYMH) program, Manjot Sanghera is one of a team of young people working to reduce stigma in B.C. She and her peers start important conversations in their communities by encouraging people to talk about mental health and substance use.

Read on to learn how Manjot got involved with SAYMH and why she thinks young people have an important role in changing the conversation about mental health, substance use and stigma.


What inspired you to get involved with the South Asian Mental Health Youth Ambassadors (SAMHYA) program?

“I knew the group of people that came up with the idea to launch this project. They talked about their idea to me and I was very touched as I had been through a recent experience of my own.”

I lost someone really close to me to mental health issues and substance use. I wasn’t able to help that loved one when he was alive.

“That experience drained me mentally and at that point I lost who I was. I didn’t know if things would ever go back to the way they were, but I reflected on his mistakes and experiences to make my life better.

It wasn’t easy. Dealing with that experience was one the hardest battles I had to fight but it changed who I am and made me value every day I live more than ever.”

How do you think we can reduce stigma? Why is it important for youth from South Asian backgrounds to talk about mental health and substance use challenges?

“My idea of reducing stigma is starting conversations and letting everyone know that it’s okay to not be okay.

After I lost that person close to me, I came to the realization that the issues he went through are taboo topics in my community. Mental health and substance use are hard to talk about it without being judged or hated on. Often our parents or older generations don’t talk about these issues with us, or they think they are not a big deal."

If we teach our youth about mental health, substance use and stigma they can make sure they and our following generations don’t have to go through the same trauma.

“That’s why it’s important for young people from South Asian backgrounds to be open about these topics.”

How can people support others who face barriers because of a lack of language or cultural-specific resources?

“This is a real struggle and real people go through it. The best way to get a point across is in the language that is spoken by the person.

One way to help people with language barriers talk and learn about mental health, substance use and stigma is by teaching young people about these topics at school. Kids can then go back home and have discussions with their families.”

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?

Don’t be nervous. There are a lot helping hands out there. It’s on us if we want to reach out or not.

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 PunjabiTraditional 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.


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