‘Neighbours’ actress Sharon Johal has praised ‘MasterChef Australia’ judge Melissa Leong for opening up about her experiences with clinical depression, saying it is “incredibly important” for “women of colour to speak openly about mental health and break down the stigma”.
Mental health issues are often swept under the carpet or seen as taboo in many culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families, and Indian-Australian Sharon said it’s by speaking up that “we are are helping people normalise something that is, well, normal”.
“It is critical we open up this conversation much more as I believe there is a long way to go,” Sharon told HuffPost Australia. “It is incredibly important for people like us, especially as women of colour, to speak openly about mental health and break down the stigma.
“I certainly grew up with elders believing that mental health was just something ‘in your head’ so we need to collectively work together to support each other and change this.”
Last month Sharon published an interview with Melissa on her podcast, ‘We Are The Real Ones’. During their candid chat, the ‘MasterChef’ judge said she had “grown up with clinical depression pretty much my entire life”.
“I started going to therapy in my early to mid 20s,” said Melissa. “I had a breakdown, I’ll be really honest. I don’t hide it but I don’t obviously advertise it either.
“It has been part of my life and my story. It was an instance of too much on the plate and the plate ended up breaking under the weight of all those things, so I started seeing a therapist.”
Sharon said “there should be absolutely no negative stigma attached to discussing medical issues like these”.
“I commend Melissa for speaking up so honestly and being so vulnerable with me and I condemn anyone who chooses to view this information about her negatively or in aims to portray a negative perception of her,” said the actress.
Melissa also addressed “de-stigmatising” mental health in an Instagram story, saying, “Every human battles at some point with mental health.
“It’s important to de-stigmatise the conversation so people feel less alone.”
Dr Vasudev N. Makhija, founder and president of the South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network, has previously spoken about the stigma associated with mental health amongst Asian families.
“There is a fear among the community that if anyone finds out, they will be ostracised,” Dr Makhija previously told HuffPost US. “They will be worried about what others think and might say. Even for seeking emotional support, they just keep quiet and just suffer in silence instead.”