by barfiCulture Team
13th November 2017
“I only begun to learn about mental health after I was impacted by anxiety whilst at university,” says Shuranjeet Takhar.
He started university being a sociable person but his experience changed all that. And it’s only now he is coming to terms with it.
“Now, as a postgraduate at Oxford University, I want to ensure that mental health isn’t something that needs to be experienced at its worst to be understood,” he says.
Shuranjeet is starting a new campaign called Tarakī to change how we deal with mental health issues.
“I formed Tarakī to try and make a structural change to how mental health is seen within the Punjabi diaspora community,” he told Barfi Culture. He chose the name because ‘Tarakī’ means being progressive and forward thinking in Punjabi he says.
He isn’t alone in his quest. The writer Kalwinder Singh Dhindsa documented his own battle with mental health issues in his book, My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree. His father Mohinder Singh Dhindsa took his own life after a long battle with depression, just as Kalwinder had gotten married.
Dhindsa wrote on his website: “Suicide stops people talking. Whether it is the person who has just taken their own life or the loved ones bereaved and left behind to pick up the pieces. Lack of engagement with the bereaved is a serious problem in our community due to the apparent fear of upsetting close family or just not being able to approach the subject or not knowing what to say.”
He adds: “Another factor in this is the issue of shame and dishonour within cultural groups. All these factors further diminish the good memories of the loved one who has passed on, resulting in a paradox in which as they are no longer talked about – they could possibly be forgotten in time forever.”
Researchers says that mental health problems are a big taboo not just among Punjabis, but South Asians in general. A recent report found that ‘sharam‘ (shame) was a big reason for people keeping their mental health struggles to themselves. And Punjabi men are particularly affected since they are not used to talking about their problems.
“Taraki wants to shape a society in which Punjabi men understand mental health as something they can speak openly about, discuss with their families, and most importantly, seek help if needs be,” Takhar told Barfi Culture.
The campaign hopes to reach out to Punjabi men, publish and amplify their experiences of mental health, and show that such difficulties can impact anyone, no matter their ethnicity, gender, class, or age.
He adds: “My focus is on Punjabi men, as that’s how I feel I, as a Punjabi man, can make the best impact.”
To start with Shuranjeet published a video with his own experience and the challenges he faced. He hopes others can also join him.
“We want Punjabi men to come forward from all walks of life to share their thoughts. In the longer term, Taraki will facilitate workshops and link individuals to support systems for the Punjabi community.”