BY SANDEEP KAUR | UPDATED 09/21/17
My name is Sandeep Kaur and I recently graduated from UC Berkeley this summer (2017) with my Bachelor’s degree in Public Health. I was the co-president of the Berkeley chapter this past year and have been involved with BPSHI for over 3 years now. I always loved talking to patients at our Health Education table-- this is usually where they’d open up about themselves, their families, their personal journeys. I wanted to focus on a project that created more space for these stories.
I think our clinics are doing an excellent job screening for diabetes and hypertension in the communities we serve, however, we continuously struggle to incorporate other aspects of patients’ health that contribute to their overall well-being. This includes their mental health. Mental health is a difficult topic to address amongst South Asians, especially due to the widespread cultural stigma and lack of Punjabi language for mental health terms. So, I also wanted to take on a project that aimed to tackle these barriers and break the silence on mental health issues.
The project that came out of these two passions was: “Breaking the Silence: South Asian Stories on Mental Health.” This initiative focuses on conducting individual interviews with South Asian community members to capture their life story, which encompasses their strengths, their stresses, their struggles, as well as any experiences with mental health they may have had. Through this indirect approach, we hope to analyze their stories from a mental health perspective and eventually share them on accessible forms of media, such as the Punjabi radio and newspaper. The overall goal of this project is to inform the broader South Asian community of the existence of mental health topics that not usually are discussed openly.
The project is still in its early stages, but so far we have refined our vision, compiled background research, and translated a list of interview questions we would like to ask. We reached out to Jasleen Singh, the founder of Sikh Monologues, for advice on how best to conduct interviews with the South Asian population. We also spoke to psychiatrist Dr. Hardeep Singh, who advised us to keep our questions more open-ended, which will allow for a more natural flowing conversation. My grandma was the first person I tried interviewing and it provided me with useful insights on the importance of body language, taking pauses, and expressing empathy. We are now working on incorporating all this feedback into our interview questions and look forward to start collecting stories soon!
What’s your story? Leave a comment below to share with us.