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Gurdwaras can help battle mental health issues

india Updated: Apr 29, 2013 14:33 IST
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Prominent Sikh mental health professionals have called upon gurdwaras to engage themselves in helping community members come out and seek help for psychological ailments.

The issue came up for discussion during a recently concluded conference call on mental health of the community, organised by the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) in association with the Office of the US vice president.

"There is such a hunger for mentors and education and we need to fill in that gap. Once people see our compassion, they will feel comfortable to reaching out to us for help," said trauma counsellor Jasvir Kaur.

The need for such initiative, the experts argued, has increased particularly since Sikhs have had to deal with hate crimes post 9/11 as well as shooting incidents like the one at a gurdwara in Oak Creek last year.

Kaur, who counselled families of the victims of Oak Creek and also helped a family in Atlanta handle the loss of a family member due to mental illness related causes, added: "Right now, no one feels comfortable because they feel judged but every step helps us get there."

During the discussion, Leena Singh Bedi said, "the secret for keeping a healthy community lies in the help from within the community itself."

"While having access to the correct resources is a huge step forward, it will not make a difference if people are too hesitant to ask for help," she said.

"Sikh patients are not fond of psychotherapy and rely more on medications when it comes to treatment (because of the stigma and shame that comes from opening up to someone)," Bedi added.

According to Dr Neena Gurpal Singh, gurdwaras can take a step in the right direction by allowing people to "have (access) to the respective gurdwaras resources for help in times of need which should include mental health professionals and also means of accessing health care and medication for those who have no insurance."

Stefanie Feldman, Policy Analyst at the office of vice president Biden said the sense of shame associated with mental illness prevents too many people from seeking help.

"That's why, this past January, the President Obama directed Cabinet Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan to launch a national dialogue about mental illness with young people who have experienced mental illness, members of the faith community, foundations and schools," Feldman said.