Students engage South Asian community on mental health
A small group of young people – including four with ties to Simon Fraser University – is banding together to bring the issue of mental health in the Lower Mainland’s South Asian community to the forefront.
Earlier this year they formed the South Asian Mental Health Action & Awareness (SAMHAA) community network and on Saturday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., will host their first conference at Surrey’s Queen Elizabeth secondary school.
“We are all motivated to make a difference in this field,” says Sukdeep Jassar, one of a dozen directors, who is completing her master’s degree in public health at SFU. “It all came together through social media – that’s how we met and discovered we shared an interest and similar goals of reaching out to our community.”
SAMHAA’s mission is to create awareness and help provide support to those affected by mental illness. The conference is billed as a forum to work on solutions to help bridge the gap between those with mental health concerns and the services that could help them. Sessions will be led in Punjabi and Hindi as well as English.
SAMHAA has secured such partners as the B.C. Mental Health Foundation, Surrey school district and Sources Community Resource Centre Society. And they’ve called on local expertise, featuring several speakers, including Dr. G. Shimi Kang, a B.C. Women’s Hospital psychiatrist and founder of the provincial Youth Concurrent Disorders program.
Says Kang: “South Asian specific cultural issues can impact the presentation, course and management of illness for affected individuals and their families – SAMHAA’s efforts will provide much needed awareness and key information about mental health and well-being for South Asians within their own cultural context.”
Jassar recently completed a practicum in Zambia, where she analyzed the state of mental health services. The experience renewed her desire to work in mental health care and specifically in her own cultural community.
“All of us involved involved with SAMHAA share a deep desire to improve mental health services here,” says Jassar. “This conference is only the beginning.”
Other SFU members include alumni Natasha Raey, project manager, who holds a degree in molecular biology and biochemistry (with honours) and Ramina Daur, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology, and Harisimran Kaur Kalra, a current student in health sciences.