TRADING STIGMA FOR HOPE: MENTAL HEALTH IN TAJIKISTAN
After struggling with mental health issues, both Dr Isana and Inna* experienced healing and found peace in Jesus Christ. Now, the SAT-7 PARS presenters seek to improve awareness of mental health issues in Tajikistan, and witness to God’s hope, through a new program in the Tajik dialect of Persian.
“I have personally experienced clinical depression,” shares Dr Isana, Presenter of the upcoming program Mental and Spiritual Health. “I had no hope that I would recover. But God has turned that negative experience around for His own glory and purposes. My difficult times are now being used to help others who are dealing with mental health problems.”
The primary purpose of Mental and Spiritual Health is to bring attention to and raise awareness of mental health issues in Tajikistan. “It was a miracle that I was able to connect with a doctor and get the medicine I needed,” shares Dr Isana. “People don’t know how to recognise signs of depression.” Even in the church context, she finds, people lack understanding and even consider people living with depression to simply have a “negative attitude”. “There is a huge stigma around mental health,” she continues. “People try to hide it, because they worry what people will think.”
“We want to help prevent suicides by raising awareness, by mentoring viewers through the stigma,” says Inna. Dr Isana adds, “We are researching all the available resources in Tajikistan that can help women with mental health problems receive the help they need. We can’t see mental pain like we can see a broken leg. But people with mental health issues need access to medicine, and they need to receive help.”
Unfortunately, in Tajikistan, where there is no National Mental Health Program and very little awareness, many people do not receive the help they need to recover. “In the past months, during the pandemic, Tajik news has reported high numbers of deaths by suicide among women,” shares Dr Isana. There have also been cases, she adds, of mothers and their children dying by murder-suicide.
“Jesus can change you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally,” adds Inna, who shares that she overcame suicidal thoughts while living with depression. “My brother killed himself, and my other brother has schizophrenia. I thought God was cruel and punishing my family. I used to take drugs and consulted fortune tellers.” However, Inna continues, all this changed when she came to know Christ. “God completely changed me. He changed my job, my family, my attitude, and my life. Now, I want to share my testimony, to tell viewers about Jesus, who brings healing.”
The pandemic has worsened existing issues that create hopelessness in Tajikistan. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the five-year civil war that followed have left its mark on Tajik society. Women have often been forced disproportionately to carry many of life’s burdens, including becoming breadwinners as well as single parents when men migrated to Russia in search of jobs, leaving their families behind. Abuse, polygamy, and strict societal control over their activities also affect women in Tajikistan.
- Pray for God’s hope and peace to fill people in Tajikistan who are suffering, dealing with hopelessness, and affected by mental health problems. Ask Him to renew minds and for His provision of the support that is so needed.
- Pray also for His hand to be over the preparations and research for Mental and Spiritual Health, and that the recording of the program will be possible in December.
- Ask that this program will help raise awareness of mental health issues in Tajikistan and help dispel the stigma that can prevent access to help.
*Names changed for security purposes.