Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Shareen - Interview 22

Age at interview: 39
Age at diagnosis: 24

Brief outline: Shareen, 39, describes herself as Asian. She was born in the UK but lived in Pakistan between the ages of 11 and 19. Shareen experiences panic attacks, anxiety and depression. Shareen's sister, Marlene was also interviewed.

Background: Housewife, married with 6 children. Ethnic background/nationality: Asian (born UK).

Audio & video

Shareen, 39, describes herself as Asian. She was born in the UK to an English mother but was sent, aged 11, with her sister to her grandmother in Pakistan. (Shareen's sister, Marlene, was also interviewed for this project.) Shareen wanted to go home to her parents in the UK, but her grandmother refused. When she was 19, Shareen's father brought his daughters home' he had to sell his house and furniture to buy the air tickets. Shareen feels that she missed out on her childhood because she didn't play or go to school; instead, she cared for children, cooked and cleaned. Consequently, she can't read and can't help her own children with their schoolwork. 

After she had her first baby, Shareen was told she couldn't have any more children, and she became depressed. Shareen and her husband began arguing and he started drinking and gambling. Shareen and her family had to move house several times, sometimes losing their as a result of her husband's gambling. 

Shareen has experienced many periods of depression and has attempted to take her own life many times. As a result she has been hospitalised, once for 6 months, had her stomach pumped and been on a life support machine. Shareen often feels like she cannot cope and wonders whether life is worth living. She also experiences panic attacks, anxiety, forgetfulness, crying, difficulty getting up in the morning, difficulty eating, hot flushes, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath and a dry throat. She has also seen and heard things that are not there. Shareen can't go out or have a bath on her own because of her panic attacks. On a bad day, Shareen says she gets angry and smashes things up, pulls her hair and bangs her head. Shareen believes her symptoms are getting worse.

Shareen is prescribed Temazepam but she doesn't take it because she's worried about 'being a zombie'. She says it knocks her out for two days and there's no one except her mum to look after her children or do the housework. Shareen says her doctor tells her to keep taking her tablets but she says they don't have to look after her 6 children. Shareen thinks her 6 children have been affected because they're not doing well at school and have a lot of anger. She feels she has to be strong for her children because when she's ill there is no one to look after them. Her eldest son has always helped around the house; Shareen says he took her place because she didn't have the energy and her husband didn't help. She is now separated from her husband who is forbidden to have contact with the children by Social Services. Shareen says her in-laws have told her she isn't a good wife or mother but she wants her children to know she tries to be a good mum. She wonders whether everything that has happened is her fault or if she's being punished for something. 

Shareen wants her symptoms to improve and to have a happy life. She says she knows she's strong. Shareen goes to a support centre to relax and feel calm, to do nice things, socialise and talk confidentially.


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