What children of immigrants can teach everyone about mental health

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Sahaj Kohli, whose family immigrated to the United Kingdom from India, struggled with an identity crisis familiar to many children of immigrants.

As the first in her family to marry a non-Indian, the first to go to therapy and the first to start talking openly about mental health, she found herself needing an outlet to share her challenges. In 2019, she founded Brown Girl Therapy, an online mental health community for children of immigrants in the West, to marry her two passions of mental health advocacy and narrative storytelling.

Wherever their parents were born, children of immigrants are often straddling two cultures. They are being raised with values inside the home that can be different from those they are experiencing outside of it.

Immigrant parents still teach their children in the ways of their home country, often rooted in deferring to elders. That’s why children of immigrants can struggle with chronic guilt, noted Kohli, who earned a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Children of immigrants don’t all share the same experiences, but Kohli learned behavior patterns and obstacles that many of them face. Setting boundaries and discussing mental health with parents will be the focus of her forthcoming book, “But What Will People Say?”

“If you aren’t doing what is told of you,” Kohli said, “you feel like you’re doing something wrong or betraying your family.”

In a conversation with CNN, Kohli shed light on the struggles that first- and second-generation Americans face while also offering guidance on how to navigate difficult conversations.


https://media.cnn.com/api/v1/images/stellar/prod/221025132848-04-mental-health-children-immigrants-wellness-sahaj-kohli.jpg?c=16x9&q=h_720,w_1280,c_fillWhen it comes to mental health, Sahaj Kohli knows that children of immigrants face unique cultural challenges.  Samuel Hall



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