‘I was 13 years old, the youngest in my class, and already feeling the stress of doing well in school.’
“I was in eighth grade when I had my first panic attack. After school, my mom drove me to the doctor, where they put a tube down my throat, diagnosed anxiety-induced asthma, and gave me an inhaler. I was 13 years old, the youngest in my class, and already feeling the stress of doing well in school. Initially, my parents wrote my anxiety off as something every kid has to deal with. As an Indian American family rooted in Hindu values, my parents generally weren’t receptive to the idea of mental health.
“Eleventh grade was one of my hardest years, with COVID-19 hitting during the college application process. My asthma was coupled with an eating disorder. I couldn’t keep anything down and basically got by on one meal a day, usually dinner. Researching about my emotional struggles led me to discover the website Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes About Mental Health [deconstructingstigma.org], which has a section with stories of South Asian women. I read about Ramya, Dimple and Mrinal, who all suffered from the stigma associated with mental illness in our community. I next found Games for Seva, an Indian cultural community dedicated to promoting game design and persistent leadership, where my article, ‘Deep conversations, playing games, and mental health,’ was published.
Lessons learned from my struggle with the stigma around mental illness have empowered me to develop a vision for the cultural and global prioritization of South Asian women’s mental health.
“Soon I began working as a mentor and started to share my experience as a South Asian woman. Before long, other women opened up to me about their stories. Subsequently, I was inspired to create Kali’s Karma, an Instagram account, @spiderinthetoilet, podcast and blog, specifically curated resources for South Asian women’s mental health. It’s grown to 850 followers, some of whom have guested on my podcast [Satori], discussing their struggles with borderline personality disorder and anxiety.
“Currently, I am 18 years old and a freshman at Hofstra University, studying psychology and thinking about the future. I aim to become a clinical psychologist and work in clinics in India. Lessons learned from my struggle with the stigma around mental illness have empowered me to develop a vision for the cultural and global prioritization of South Asian women’s mental health.”
Interviewed by Jim Merritt