Surviving the Ocean of Depression

Stories told in Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Nepali and Pashto

In this project, asylum seekers and refugees who are now living in Australia generously share their experiences in overcoming hardships in order to reach, support and empower others:

"Country means to us like mother. If you leave your country, it is like leaving your mother, so there is always a vital reason behind that. We left our country based on a life-threatening situation. We were searching and asking for protection. We were chasing peace.

We all came to Australia in the last ten years. Some of us came as refugees by plane. Some of us came as asylum seekers by boat. Some of us lived despairing in detention for years before we had a chance to start to make a life in the community. Some of us are still seeking asylum. Some of us have been granted residency, safety and protection. We shall never forget this.

All of us wish to be active members of the Australian society in every aspect from work, social life and in making peace. But we have known times of great sorrow, worry, sadness.

We want to share with you some of the ways we have survived despair, or depression, or worry.

These are our stories, ideas and messages. They are stories from men and from women. From older people and from younger people.

If you are drowning, we hope our words reach out to you."

Click below to listen to one of the available language resources:

Arabic

النجاة من محیط الاكتئاب

Dari

راه ها و روش هایی که می توانیم بر افسردگی و مشکلات روحی خود غلبه کنیم

Farsi

راه ها و روش هایی که می توانیم بر افسردگی و مشکلات روحی خود غلبه کنیم

Nepali

वसाद” अर्थात​ "उदासीन​"को महासगरमा जीउँदै

Pashto

راه ها و روش هایی که می توانیم بر افسردگی و مشکلات روحی خود غلبه کنیم

About this project

This project was initiated by Dr Abdul Stanikzai. While working as an interpreter in Adelaide, he was called upon to translate for medical professionals responding to people from diverse language groups, some of whom had come to Australia seeking asylum and refuge, who were facing mental health crises (and as a result were in psychiatric wards). Dr Stanikzai recognised that mental health staff were struggling to find ways to respond and that it could be significant for those currently in crisis to be able to listen, in their own language, to stories from others who had been through similar experiences and who had managed to 'overcome the ocean of depression'. Dr Stanikzai mentioned this to Dulwich Centre Foundation and this project is the result.

The resources contain stories from interviews conducted by Dr Stanikzai as well as contributions from the Muslim Women's Association of South Australia.

The project also builds upon the work of a previous project: Surviving the ocean of depression in which a video was created from the stories of young people who came to Australia as refugees. This video was developed in colalboration with Afghan Youth of South Australia and Mohammed Hamidi and Javid Jafari played influential roles.

A number of people played crucial parts in translating and recording the audio resources. We would like to acknowledge Dr Abdul Stanikzai, Sabrine Al Mansoury, Azizeh Hazarei, Nasim Mosaffa, Faiz Achakzai, Sher Wali Nazari, Junelee Pradhan, Javid Jafari, Ahmad Torabi and Shaista Kalaniya.

Thanks also to Lutheran Media - Andy Voight, Celia Fielke, and Richard Fox. And also to Bill Morris for web design.

This project was supported by funding from the South Australian Suicide Prevention Community Grants Scheme 2017. It was coordinated by Henrietta Byrne and David Denborough.

Surviving the ocean of depression (English version)

Country means to us like mother. If you leave your country, it is like leaving your mother, so there is always a vital reason behind that. We left our country based on a life-threatening situation. We were searching and asking for protection. We were chasing peace.

We all came to Australia in the last ten years. Some of us came as refugees by plane. Some of us came as asylum seekers by boat. Some of us lived despairing in detention for years before we had a chance to start to make a life in the community. Some of us are still seeking asylum. Some of us have been granted residency, safety and protection. We shall never forget this.

All of us wish to be active members of the Australian society in every aspect from work, social life and in making peace. But we have known times of great sorrow, worry, sadness.

When I came with my husband to Australia, I was really missing my extended family, especially my mother. I was really feeling alone. Life for us at the beginning was like in a prison. Then I got some illnesses, like, low back pain, chronic headache, not sleeping well and some skin problems.

We have had times when we have lost hope – times when it has seemed too difficult to go on with life. Some of us have nearly drowned in the ocean of depression. Some of us have nearly been overcome by thoughts of ending our lives.

We know the sadness of losing loved ones. And when we feel we cannot go on. Or when it is impossible to sleep because of the worries that come. Some of us worry so much about our families who remain in danger. And if we cannot sleep then we are so weary.

Some of us have sought help from doctors or psychologists. The pills they offered have helped some of us to sleep and to get through the very hardest times. But there are other things that also assist us to carry on when the depression or worries are strong.

We want to share with you some of the ways we have survived despair, or depression, or worry.

These are our stories, ideas and messages. They are stories from men and from women. From older people and from younger people.

If you are drowning, we hope our words reach out to you.

 

Water can bring you fresh ideas

It’s very hard to start your life again from zero. There are a lot of problems that can make you worried, anxious and depressed about your future and about your family.  I was missing so much my extended family and friends back in my home country. I heard from elders in our society quite a while ago that water can mentally bring you fresh ideas and can help you forget hard times. So when my problems and worries were mounting and mounting in front of me, I tried to go to the beach sometimes twice or more in a week. While I was there by the sea I would listen to music and this really helped me to think and feel fresh. One day I took my family to the Semaphore beach with lunch that we prepared in our home. My whole family was fresh that day.

 

Taking refuge in the past

Sometimes, I can take refuge in remembering the past – the good memories. When I sit relaxed, I can bring back memories of my mother, times before I was married, when I was at my father’s place. I remember my siblings and all the very best moments we shared. Those memories bring me comfort.

 

My friend’s smile

I came to Australia by boat and I spent three years in different detention centres. Now I am on a protection visa. It’s already more than four years since I have seen my family. When I was in detention in Nauru, I was thinking that I would be free sometime soon, but the time goes on and on. I was thinking what has happened to me and to my future? But I didn’t lose my hopes. It was when I got the protection visa and when I was free from detention that the depression came upon me. I could not sleep, I was taking anti-depressant and hypnotic medication, and I felt like I was a sick person imposed on the Australian community. I had no one to share my sadness. Most of the time I was alone in my room, silently crying. Life had become meaningless to me.

One day I went to a community event in Adelaide and met with some people from the same country. We exchanged contact details and then they visited me and I visited them. My new friend was taking me to dinner and to different places. He spoke of patience but more importantly he suggested to me that I think of those who are still in detention who are still suffering from different situations, think of those who are being killed or who are simply seeking safety. In our religion, thinking of those who are suffering, is an act of kindness, of thanks, of respect. Gradually, as I did this, I began to feel better and a time arrived that I stopped taking my medications for depression and sleep. I was then able to find work for a short time on a farm and then I was able to get my driver’s licence and start my own small business.

For a long time, I didn’t know how to smile. And I didn’t know what a smile can offer, what a smile can do. It was my friend’s smile that was the best treatment for me.

 

Making my body tired so my mind can forget

One of us has a saying, ‘It’s people who sit who get tired’. So we remain active – walk by the beach, swim, or do yoga. For me, keeping busy is important – cooking, preparing for kids, gardening or cleaning the house. There is something calming about making a clean house.

When I came to Australia about a year ago, I had problems with my English language, finding work, and getting to school, because I was away from school for more than two years. I was also responsible of my family. All these factors made my days and time worse and worse. Most often I was thinking hopelessly and was depressed all the time. One day, I went to an oval and saw some people playing cricket.  I asked them, ‘Can I play cricket with you?’ and they kindly accepted. Soon I was coming to this ground regularly and this really helped me to forget my problems. When my body was tired and needed to rest, I no longer needed medications, and my mind could forget. Gradually my confidence started to come back and now I am making progress towards my dreams.

 

Remembering and learning from my ancestors

I have not seen my motherland, but I never forget my ancestors. I have read so much about them, about their suffering and their achievements. When they are happy, I am happy. When they are sad, I am sad. We can learn from the failures of history and also from the successes. We can learn from our ancestors and then apply these learnings in our own lives, here and now. From this history, I have learnt about respecting people from different societies, cultures and religions. When you respect others, they respect you as well. This respect builds friendships. Friendships lead to harmony. Harmony brings peace. This is what I have learnt from the history of Afghanistan. This is what I have learned from our ancestors. These learnings give me guidance.

 

Life studies

I thought that when I was in Australia, I would learn to speak English in six months and then finally start university. But life is not so simple. When I got here I learned I would have to go back to high school and that this would take three more years. It was like going back to zero. I already finished high school in Iran! Negative things like this can get you down. They can steal your confidence. They can bring disappointment and make you think of yesterday. It is easy to become withdrawn. And so hard to leave the house. Then I realised that at high school I would not only be doing secondary studies (which I had completed in Iran), I would also be doing life studies. I would be learning about life and perhaps what I learned could also help others. This has now come true.

The most important thing I have learned through these life studies is patience. There is a saying in our culture, ‘you cannot travel 1000 miles in a single night’. This is a helpful phrase.

I have also learnt the importance of having more than one goal. As well as having your main hope, have another one, a smaller one, at the same time. This will mean that after every failure there remains a hope of success. Not everyone can be a doctor, dentist or engineer. Doctors and dentists need patients, and sometimes the patients’ jobs are just as important or even more important. Every engineer needs labourers to make the buildings. Society needs all of us together.

These two learnings from my life studies, about patience and about always having more than one goal, are ways of surviving when you are making a new life.

 

Tears and screaming

For me, tears are the only solution. Peace visits only after tears. For some of us mothers, screaming brings relief . When times are hard in my family, I start talking very quickly and loudly and then I scream in front of my husband, I tell him I won’t listen to him. And then before too long I am laughing. Screaming and then laughing makes a difference, although my daughter finds this very strange.

 

After each darkness there is light

Some of us have had to hold onto a belief in the future even when everything seemed without hope. The hardest thing in my life was when I came to Australia and I was in a detention centre for three and half years. They took me to Christmas Island and then to Curtin Detention Centre. I would never have thought I would have to experience what I went through there. I faced so many difficult situations from the guards. We had no choices. We knew that if we went back to our country, it would have been even worse. The days and months and years went on and on and on. At that time, it was like we had no future. We were more than 300 people in that detention centre. Somehow we had to keep believing in a future. Some people in the detention centre and also outside in the Australian community would give us hope. They sent us letters and told us that they were supporting us. They were encouraging us that we would not be there forever. In our country or culture we have a proverb: After each darkness there is a light or after each night there is a day. We lived through many challenges. Sometimes it takes all your strength to keep your hope up and to believe in a future.

 

Praying

For me, praying can bring comfort. Connection with the Lord brings a peace of mind. It is a refuge we can take. Sometimes it’s my only refuge. The biographies of the prophets remind me of the hard times they also faced. Stories can take you to another life. Their struggles give us strength. And we thank God for this life.

There are other things that help too, like bringing a smile to the faces of others

It is very important for me to bring kindness to other families, to keep other women smiling and motivated.

If we know someone is drowning in an ocean of depression, we have to help them. I try to find my friends’ passion and then give them the tools to put their passion into action.

There is one more thing that helps us.

 

Eating

I open the fridge to find happiness (and gain weight!).  Chocolates and sweets. I keep busy making cakes and then eat them myself – the eating is entertainment J.

These are some of the ideas and skills that are helping us to survive the ocean of depression. We left our countries based on a life-threatening situation. We were searching and asking for protection. We were chasing peace.

We know about the ocean of depression and the ocean of worry. We know of great sadness.

After each darkness there is light.

After each night there is day.

If you are drowning, we hope our stories reach out to you.

We are waiting to meet you.

For further information contact

[email protected]