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'Haneri' Exposes Sad Realities Of Depression In Young South Asian Canadians

02/13/2017 11:45 EST | Updated 02/13/2017 11:45 EST

When depression hits, it can feel like a storm taking over your body day by day.

But imagine having suicidal thoughts and not being able to tell your parents about it. Imagine lying in bed for hours with anxiety, while your family calls you everything from dramatic and crazy to possessed.

For many South Asian Canadians with a mental health condition, all of this rings true.

"Haneri," a short documentary by Toronto director and writer Rakhi Mutta starring local YouTuber and actress Kiran Rai, captures what many South Asian Canadians with depression live with.

The film is about a young woman named Ruby and her family trying to understand her depression, something Rai has firsthand experience with.

"Even owning my depression was very difficult because I was in denial for a long time," she tells The Huffington Post Canada. "I wasn't able to speak to my family."

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Kiran Rai as Ruby.

Shot last April, the film was funded by Bell Let’s Talk and presented by Ontario's Punjabi Community Health Services.

Rai, 27, says the film was meant to help South Asian communities not only to cope with their own mental health, but finally open up about it with their families — something that's easier said than done.

"Coping is not the solution. We really need to dig deeper and find initiatives to help people heal."

Full documentary below:

In the film, Ruby is clearly going through the symptoms of severe depression, but is dismissed by most of her family members including her father, brother and grandmother.

And instead of suggesting she seek out therapy or counselling, Ruby's grandmother insists someone has done black magic on her.

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Rai first experienced an anxiety attack when she was 16, a time when she didn't even know what anxiety was.

"I was reflecting on my grandfather's death and I couldn't speak to anyone about it or handle it," she says.

When she tried talking to a doctor about her anxiety, she was told "everyone was going to die, there's no need to have anxiety over it."

"I shut my mouth for the next nine years of my life, I was so scared to talk about it and my family didn't understand it at all."

haneri

Rai also says it's just as important to check in on our immigrant parents' mental health as well.

"I finally opened up to my dad last year that I had depression and that was really hard," she says. "I didn't know how to communicate it, literally like my character in the film."

In turn, her parents were both sympathetic, and her father also wondered if he had depression himself.

"Even if children are able to tell their parents and their parents are willing to listen, they may even admit their own mental health issues to their own kids."

She said for some of her fans on social media, especially those who are South Asian, one of the suggestions they had was watching the film with their immigrant parents.

"There needs to be more spaces for South Asians [in Canada]," she says. "It's still such a taboo."

"Haneri" which means storm in Punjabi, can be watched here.

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