Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Reena - Interview 07

Age at interview: 42
Age at diagnosis: 32

Brief outline: Reena, 42, describes herself as Bangladeshi, and came to the UK aged 9. She was diagnosed with depression in her early 30s.

Background: Does voluntary work, married with 3 adult children and four children under 18. Ethnic background/nationality: Bangladeshi (born in Bangladesh); in UK for 33 years.

Audio & video

Reena, 42, describes herself as Bangladeshi. She has lived in the UK for 33 years. Reena experienced postnatal depression after the birth of her second to last child. She says she became feverish, couldn't sleep, didn't enjoy meals, and felt scared and stressed. She says her mind was not working properly and she had weird feelings in her head. Her daughters' were registered as young carers and their schooling was suffering because they were looking after the other children and missing school. Reena says she was worried she might die, because her heart would race and she thought she was going to have a heart attack. She says she felt like she was in a different world. She asked her GP to check her heart, stomach, kidneys, head and brain. She didn't know why she felt like this and says her GP was puzzled, but then diagnosed depression and prescribed medication but her depression got worse and she stopped eating. Reena asked her GP for someone to talk to and for help with her children, they sent a Bengali woman, which helped. 

Reena went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and then to Bangladesh where she saw a Mullah, who told her it was magic spell and gave her a charm and was given special water and oil. She started to feel better and when she came back to the UK she decided she needed to be tougher. She went to the school and started to do voluntary work and started to feel better and visit friends. 

Reena experienced antenatal depression while pregnant with her last child. She was admitted to hospital in the final weeks of her pregnancy because she was found unconscious at home and the doctors said it wasn't safe for her to go home. When she came home with the new baby she says the stress began and her GP referred her to a CPN (community psychiatric nurse). Reena was observed by the CPN and by the health visitor and given family support, but says nothing helped. Reena was referred to a mother and baby unit in a psychiatric hospital for observation but only stayed for 2 weeks because she wasn't trying to commit suicide or harm her baby. 

When she left hospital she tried different medicines and saw a CPN but still felt unwell and fed-up; she says she was like the “living dead”. Reena says she went to her GP and told her if she didn't refer her to hospital she would commit suicide - because she wanted proper help. The hospitals refused to admit her and Reena says her GP told them it would be their responsibility if anything happened and eventually Reena was accepted at a private hospital. Reena was in hospital for 5 weeks and tried different medicines. Reena says she asked for an interpreter in hospital but they refused and said they would understand her somehow. She says that some of the staff and her husband asked her if she was pretending to be ill. Reena says there were no other Bengali people in hospital, but she made some good friends who looked after her. When she returned home, she was provided with support looking after the kids and doing housework, and saw a counsellor, health visitor, and CPN. Reena says they were mostly English but it didn't matter to her because she wanted to have practice and learn. She says the CPNs gave her courage. She also attends a group to talk to people, and enjoyed herself. She starting driving lessons and went to school and asked for voluntary work. Her dose of Citalopram was reduced to 20mg.

Reena says she didn't want to talk to the doctors about family matters, whether her marital problems were causing her to feel unwell, or whether anyone was causing her to suffer even though they promised it would be confidential. Reena says she probably would have got better if she had talked to someone 10 years ago but she was worried it would make her family suffer. Reena says she has a good GP who she has known for 25 years, and has fun with her even though she is English. She says she told her problems because she told her to trust her. 

Reena says when she became depressed her husband wouldn't listen and that sometimes he would hurt her feelings and make her feel worse. She says her husband's family abandoned her, and she mainly got support from her children. Reena says that in her culture no one is there for you if you are ill, but the English help when you are ill and give you respect. She says English people should go to heaven because they helped her so much at the hospital her and with their help Allah made her recover.  

Reena says depression is a mental worry that cannot be described completely. She says it's difficult to make a doctor understand, let alone anyone else. Reena says that in her culture, the women are isolated at home and experience stress from their husbands, in-laws, kids, and work but they keep it inside and this causes depression which leads to cancer, strokes and death. Reena says depression is caused by fear of other people. She says her husband is very strict and if she didn't prepare things according to his timetable he would shout at her or beat her' she says that often when people are suffering it is because of their husbands, not their family. Reena says she is not afraid any more because her GP is behind her. 

Reena says she knows how to help people with depression because she knows how they feel. She says they need to be treated slowly and gently; people should give them support, keep them cheerful, and never hurt their feelings. Reena says people with depression should talk to someone they trust to get it out of their system. She says make your GP your friend.

Reena says she was discharged years ago and was lucky to survive because she knows people who have died from sadness. She says she could get ill again if she becomes lazy or starts worrying. Reena likes to get involved and help other people, she's helping another woman with depression and helps people with their kids because she knows what it was like when no one helped her.


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