Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Rehana - Interview 18

Female
Age at interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 44

Brief outline: Rehana, 49, describes herself as Pakistani and has lived in the UK for 27 years. She experiences severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Rehana feels ashamed of having depression and is worried that if people find out they might make fun of her.

Background: Housewife, married with two adult children. Ethnic background/nationality: Pakistani (born in Pakistan); in UK for 27 years.

Audio & video

Rehana, 49, describes herself as Pakistani and has lived in the UK for 27 years. She experiences severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Rehana came to the UK to be married but she did not get on with her in-laws' her sister-in-law hit her in the stomach while she was pregnant, and her brother-in-law treated her like a slave. She felt lonely and insecure. Eventually, Rehana got on better with her mother-in-law who treated her like a daughter. Rehana looked after her and could talk to her about her illness. Rehana' says her depression began when her father became ill and died before she arrived in Pakistan. She says that an ongoing argument with her family about her mother-in-law's will is making her ill.

Rehana experiences panic attacks, palpitations, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, sweats and lack of energy. She sees zigzags, stars, funny faces and hears voices and noises that aren't there. She finds this very scary. She has been told she has severe migraines and tinnitus and Rehana believes this is caused by depression. Rehana has tried to commit suicide 5 times; she says she knows it's a sin in Islam and so she will not do it. 

Rehana describes how she lost count of how many times she went to the doctors telling them how she felt and that she wanted to kill herself. She says the doctor put it down to homesickness and a lack of support but didn't offer any help or give her any medicine. Now, Rehana's doctor often sees her at home and she has also seen a psychiatrist who listened to her and gave her counselling. Rehana now has to wait a long time to see her psychiatrist and feels neglected; she would like to see a specialist. Instead, she has counselling with a voluntary organisation, which she finds helpful. On the whole, she doesn't think her background is taken into account. 

Rehana takes medication (propranolol) at night and in the morning. Sometimes she takes diazepam depending how she feels - the doctor stopped her from taking it regularly. Her doctor wants to change her medication but she can't find someone to talk to about this and feels very confused. Rehana has tried group therapy with other people with anxiety to share experiences but felt she couldn't speak as well as the English people in the group. She goes to yoga and finds the breathing exercises help. Rehana prays 5 times a day, and asks Allah not to make anyone ill. She had somebody perform a dam (Islamic ritual to cure disease) on her. She finds religious teachings help her a lot, give her patience, will power, and knowledge. 

Rehana is worried about how her illness affects her two adult children, especially her son who experiences anxiety, so she keeps it from them. Rehana says she finds it difficult to make friends because she doesn't want to tell them about her depression. She says she feels ashamed and is worried that if people find out they might make fun of her. Only her husband and sister-in-law know. 

Rehana wants to fight her illness and although she feels helpless, she says she is strong and wants to enjoy her life and be able to help with her grandchildren.

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