The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
For many in the South Asian community, mental health remains a taboo subject with community members who are often resistant to address their concerns out of fear of what others will think. For some who seek help, culture and language barriers play a significant role in the inaccessibility of mental health resources and the inability to navigate the healthcare system. Without proper modification, traditional psychotherapy built around a Western model may be inefficient and South Asians seeking help are likely to be discouraged, according to Nawal Mustafa, a PhD candidate in clinical neuropsychology. “This means that many Western-trained therapists may find it difficult to comprehend the deeply ingrained cultural nuances of South Asian communities,” Mustafa said.
To provide more culturally and linguistically appropriate resources and more effectively address the mental health concerns within the South Asian community, here are five organizations that are working towards breaking the stigma:
Founded in 2015 by community mental health nurses Jasmeet Chagger and Maneet Chahal, SOCH Mental Health is a Brampton-based non-profit organization seeking to destigmatize the conversation around mental health and help community members understand how to navigate the healthcare system. The organization provides a range of resources: short films, social media engagement, discussions on Apni SOCH (a series created by the Sikh Channel) and specific demographic community workshops. One of their most recent ventures was The Pardesi Project; a five-part film series addressing some of the challenges that international students face.
Meenakshi Sharma founded The Lotus Movement in April 2020 after noticing a lack of mental health resources for the South Asian community in Ottawa. Having experienced her own mental health struggles with depression and anxiety, the need for such a space in her community was only solidified. “I wish I had received the help sooner in my younger years,” Sharma told Her Campus. “But regardless, I have been committed to being vocal about this topic on my own platform in hopes that others can share their own journey as well.” Working alongside a board of advisors, inclusive of mental health professionals, The Lotus Movement provides workshops and seminars on Zoom and their Instagram, open to all members of the South Asian community. According to Sharma, her hopes for the organization are to offer culturally and linguistically appropriate resources and elevate BIPOC therapists.
For a more individualized experience, Saskatchewan-based social worker Vinita Singh launched Sukoon Counselling in July 2021 to provide one-on-one counselling. Singh follows an integrated approach of therapy, combining evidence-based therapeutic techniques that are specific to a client’s needs or diagnosis. “My approach will be more to support trauma resolution and resilience through culturally responsive professional education, training, research and outreach in our diverse communities,” Singh explains. Through Sukoon Counselling, Singh offers online counselling in English, Hindi and Urdu. Newcomers, students and seniors can also expect reduced rates.
South Asian Mental Health Alliance (SAMHAA) is a non-profit organization mobilizing and educating the South Asian community in British Columbia on the importance of mental health. SAMHAA is relatively active on Instagram and Twitter, spotlighting mental health resources and articles related to mental health, as well as outreach activities available to community members. SAMHAA launched Students Overcoming Opioid Use Disorder and Addictions (SOOUDA) to spread awareness of the opioid crisis in the province and share information on opioid overdose response and prevention. In 2019, SAMHAA received a grant of $112,000 from the BC Ministry of Mental Health to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health and addictions training to 100 youth ambassadors.
Founded by Raj Kaur in 2020, South Asian Therapists is an online directory of therapists within the South Asian community, with currently over half being from the United States. Users can refine their search for a therapist that may be best suited for them based on location, region, session type (online, phone, in-person, home visits) and language. Further information about each therapist is provided through their individual profile to help guide the search process. Mental health workbooks from a South Asian perspective are also available for purchase, addressing topics such as boundaries, emotional validation and codependency.