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Mental Health, Motherhood, and Stigma in the Asian Community

Grace's Story
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Trigger Warning: The content below contains information on mental illness and suicide which some readers may find triggering. If you need support, please contact the Ontario Shores crisis line: 1-800-263-2679.

After the birth of her third child, Grace’s mental health started to drastically decline. “When I started to think about harming myself and children, I realized I needed actual help.”

The severity of her illness was taken lightly both by her and those around her. But her symptoms became so bad that she saw no other option but to drive herself to the Emergency Room at her community hospital.

“I have been living with mental health issues since I was young, but never took it seriously because of my family and culture,” Grace says. “In my experience, mental illness in the Asian community is seen as a sign of weakness and is very stigmatized.”

In addition to being diagnosed with post-partum depression, it was determined that Grace also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to a history of relationship stressors. She was then referred to the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart Women’s Clinic (Women’s Clinic) at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores).

Within two months, she was meeting weekly with Bernadette, a Social Worker in the Women’s Clinic.

“It was like ripping off a band-aid as we went back through my history to find the root cause of my mental breakdown. At first, I found it very challenging to relive all of my past traumas and I wanted to quit.”

But thinking about her kids gave her the strength to keep going.

I did not want to repeat the inter-generational trauma on my kids. I want to be in a state where I can take care of them and provide a happy and healthy life for us all.” 

“This is now possible because Bernadette provided such a safe, patient, and compassionate space," continues Grace. "Before her I felt so judged - the things I shared with her, I had never shared with anyone.”

The Women’s Clinic provides psychotherapy, supportive counselling, and parenting support to women struggling with their mood and anxiety related to pregnancy and post-partum, as well as support to women struggling with mood dysregulation related to hormonal issues during menopause.

“When working with clients of any cultural background, I ensure I am providing the three core concepts for therapeutic change – being genuine, offering unconditional positive regard and acceptance, and empathic understanding,” says Bernadette. “This is the start in any therapeutic relationship to help individuals break through mental health barriers to be able to work towards one’s mental health recovery.”

Although emotional challenges still exist, Grace had developed positive coping skills and uses those challenges to self-improve.

Foundation - Grace & Bernadette

“I am so proud of her,” continues Bernadette. “I really believe that Grace being a nurse and having lots of insight on the impact that mental illness can have, was the driving force in her motivation to move past the cultural and stigmatizing barriers to get the support she needed.”

After her therapy ended, Grace felt the need to advocate for people with mental illness and help those around her better understand what people who are struggling are going through.

“I thought to myself, I want to be a Bernadette for someone. Working in the emergency room I see many patients with mental health issues and in crisis,” she describes. “I also see the stigma and fear from the health professionals who care for them because they don’t know what to do – so even if they are not my patient, I make sure to talk with them and help the other nurses navigate their care.”

Grace is sharing her story because she wants people to know that no matter their background, everyone has mental health issues at some point in their life, and she doesn’t want people to live in denial.

“Do I still have my bad days? Of course,” she explains. “There are always setbacks as there is no real “cure” for mental illness. It’s a continuous journey that needs attention and work. Sometimes you have to hit that refresh button and reach out for support again – and that’s okay!”

In addition to raising her family, taking care of herself, and working as a Registered Practical Nurse, Grace is also in school to become a Registered Nurse.

"After my therapy I felt so empowered. I want women, mothers, and everyone who is struggling to know it’s okay to NOT be okay - and it takes strength to seek help.”

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