Raising Awareness Of Health Inequalities In The Sikh Community

Discrimination based on appearance or faith, has led to decreased mental and physical health in the Sikh Community

Raising Awareness Of Health Inequalities In The Sikh Community

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People of the Sikh faith are often discriminated against based on their appearance or faith, according to the American Psychological Association, this has led to decreased mental and physical health among the Sikh Community. Expression of eastern beliefs in the western world has always been met with challenges in countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This has led to the importance of raising awareness among the Sikh community.

Raising Much-Needed Awareness For Mental Health

In November 2017, the UK Sikh Press Association hosted their first open discussion addressing the mental health issues affecting their community. The panel was headed by Sikh Health Professionals, including Baljit Singh, who is a Sikh educator for Basics of Sikhi, Jaspal Kaur a psychiatric nurse, Harpal Singh, a psychotherapist, and other health professionals and community volunteers. They provided their professional and rational answers in handling the difficulties their communities faced.

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During the open forum, the first question that was raised was, "How can Sikhs talk about depression if no Punjabi word exists for it?" Jaspal Kaur explained that terms such as schizophrenia and depression are western terms that we are trying to fit into our culture. Although unfamiliar in the Sikh community, it is an issue that should draw attention to improve the well-being of individuals, as health is important. Mr. Singh also added that Sikh scriptures contain references and terms for illnesses of the mind, which may be often misinterpreted or overlooked.

Sikh Communities Tackling Mental Health

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According to Sikh Helpline, an organization designed to tackle the importance of mental health in the community, more citizens are coming forward to express their concerns and seek proper health. During one of their recent events, a British Sikh Nurse provided her first-hand experience on the positive impact the organization has done in terms of mental health. This shows that even one organization can produce a change, no matter how small the gathering may be. The speakers also encourage Punjabi men to talk more openly about mental health issues, as this can only benefit them and their mental well-being.

Understanding The Domino Effect of Poor Mental Health

Mental health issues can vary, and during the forum, they also discussed the mental health issues that were the most prevalent in their community. When asked to the audience, most acknowledged that they knew someone that was living with some type of addiction. Addiction is often a coping mechanism used to cover the actual problems that are present. Some may tend to live an unhealthy lifestyle, and may lead to more serious health conditions such as diabetes and its associated conditions, or cardiovascular health. According to The Sikh Diabetes Study, diabetic neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes mellitus, affecting 20% of urban Sikhs living in India, Punjab and Amritsar.

This is especially true for the men in the community, as they are not encouraged enough to be open about their issues. Guru Ji, a speaker in the forum, said that health professionals can give everything they need, but those living with a poor mental health need constant support rather than one-time advice. He explains that the Sikh community tends to give solutions before assessing them, which can lead to undesirable results.

Dr. Ravjot Kaur concluded that "It is our ego that fuels our prejudice against poor mental health." The Sikh community must act to make the change they want for a better future.
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