Jha joined Zero Hour as the Partnerships Director and has ever since fought for a more sustainable future. More recently, Jha became the Co-Founder of Voyagers, a youth-led platform consulting with businesses, such as IKEA, on sustainability in relation to Gen Z.

A Letter to the South Asian Community

To my entire fellow South Asian community,

2020 has not been a kind year for us. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is threatening the health and safety of the entire world. Black people still fear for their lives, and we are still working as a society to defend their most basic human rights. And recently, our community woke up to the crushing news that one of India’s finest Bollywood actors, Sushant Singh Rajput, is dead…most likely due to suicide.

This heart-wrenching tragedy is a wake-up call to all of us. We are all trying to protect ourselves physically by social distancing and washing our hands, but we often forget that protecting ourselves mentally and emotionally is just as critical. Our brains release neurotransmitters and hormones which regulate everything in our body, from our heart rate and breathing to our appetite and sleep patterns. We cannot function physically if we are suffering mentally. And in such tense and tumultuous times, we need to acknowledge that struggling with mental health is a real feat, and can be devastating when ignored.


Unfortunately, within the South Asian community, mental health is often not recognized or valued. Many members of our community either refuse to believe that mental health conditions can be serious obstacles for one to deal with, or may even victim blame. For example, they may blame one’s anxiety or depression on things like spending too much time on their phone or being too “sensitive.” This is a common sentiment that the late-night host and YouTuber Lilly Singh actually created a video on it called “Brown Parents Don’t Believe in Therapy.” Unfortunately, getting help isn’t as easy as just asserting yourself and telling your family you want therapy, as the video suggests. Many high school and college-aged students live with their parents and are financially dependent on them. Even those who live independently may fear disappointing their parents, especially since family ties are often considered sacred in South Asian cultures. Furthermore, even with family support, people might still be ostracized by other members of their community for admitting that they have a mental health condition. Therefore, the only way to help people get the care they need is to shatter the negativity and stigma wrongly associated with mental health.

Mental health conditions are afflictions, not reflections. Conditions like depression and anxiety do not reflect a person’s self-worth, personality, or capability. They are certainly not a result of weakness, laziness, or a lack of intelligence, which are all myths often perpetuated by many of our peers and elders. These are medical conditions and can affect anyone, regardless of lifestyle, socioeconomic class, education, or other factors. However, these myths are the foundational basis for the stigmatization of people who seek help for their mental health, especially within the South Asian community. Most of us come from communalist cultures, where our self-esteem is often predicated on others’ opinions of us. Therefore, if we continue to correlate mental health issues with negative stereotypes (weakness, craziness, incapability), then fear of judgment will be a major deterrent to people admitting they need help or obtaining care. This can lead to devastating consequences. The only way to prevent this is to constantly remind ourselves of two things: 

1) Mental health conditions are afflictions, not reflections, and

2) Getting help is a sign of strength and perseverance, not a sign of weakness or shame.

One more key thing before moving on: many of us have heard some variation of this in the past, but just in case it didn’t sink in the first (or millionth) time: telling someone with a mental health issue to “get over it and move on” is the equivalent of telling someone with severe COVID-19 to just get over it and breathe normally. It is insulting and unacceptable to say such a thing.

Finally, we need to check ourselves in the language that we use. I often hear parents and peers interchangeably using the words depression and sadness or anxiety and nervousness. They are not the same things. Sadness and nervousness are states of mind; they are provoked by certain situations and will eventually subside. Depression and anxiety, however, are states of being. They are prolonged, extremely disruptive periods of either hopelessness and lack of joy (in the case of depression) or panic (in the case of anxiety). The most important part is that these conditions are involuntary. They are not necessarily triggered by anything; they can just happen. If we don’t understand the nuances of these different terms, we remain incapable of recognizing the warning signs of conditions such as depression and anxiety, which means we run the risk of trivializing or ignoring people who may desperately need someone for support.

Obviously, there are many other problems with the way our world handles mental health. There is a lack of resources, lack of therapists, tendencies to overmedicate, not to mention the horrendously steep costs of care. But the prerequisite to fixing any of these issues is to admit that mental health and mental illnesses are things that must be addressed. Changing attitudes and perspectives can take time, but we can start by taking small, baby steps! Educate yourself by reading up on the warning signs of depression and anxiety (listed below), and continue to check in on your loved ones during and beyond this difficult time. In the words of a song from Chhichhore, one of Sushant Singh Rajput’s final films: “Khairiyat poochho, kabhi to kaifiyat pooccho,” which translates to “ask someone about their well-being and their situation.” (watch the song here).

For those who are battling anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, please remember that help is out there! Stay strong, believe in yourself, and reach out. Here are some resources and hotlines to help:

· SAMHSA National Helpline: 18006624357 (United States)

o Website: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

· National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-8255 (United States)

o Website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

o Text: TALK to 741741

· List of Mental Health/Suicide Hotlines in India to call: https://thelivelovelaughfoundation.org/helpline.html

For those wanting to learn more about mental health issues and warning signs of anxiety and depression:

· The Live, Love, Laugh Foundation: https://thelivelovelaughfoundation.org/index.html

o Started by Deepika Padukone and run by her sister Anisha Padukone to advocate for mental health issues!

o Accepts donations as well to help with mental health causes in India

· To learn more about Major Depressive Disorder (signs, symptoms, when to seek help):

o   https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007

· To learn more about anxiety disorders (signs, symptoms, when to seek help):


· List of mental health advocacy groups/organizations in the U.S.:

o   https://www.verywellmind.com/leading-mental-health-charities-and-organizations-4147842

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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