Nikhwat’s personal tragedy drives him to write about how we better respond better to the unique mental health challenges facing the BAME community. Here’s his blog.
Many times, I’ve read articles saying it’s time to talk, mental health is important and every other recycled term relating to mental health.
Honestly, every time I’ve agreed with them, we do need to talk, mental health IS important and every recycled term surrounding mental health stands.
Yet this time it feels different. Because it is different.
My younger brother, my best friend, sadly committed suicide a month ago.
It’s strange for me – it feels as if I’ve lost a limb and now I feel like I’m learning how to walk again, I didn’t realise how reliant I was on my brother yet when faced with loss in this way it brings to the forefront of my mind of how those who leave us in their passing, leave behind what feels like their own little footsteps on our own winding trail of life.
Sometimes those joining us on our journey are more important than others and he was and is just that. Important.
I can only ever speak of my own experiences and as someone with mental health issues and someone who belongs to the BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) community, I will do just that.
To quote Martin Luther King Jr,
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Justice and progress is being made with mental health in the BAME community more and more I am made aware of fantastic organisations working on BAME mental health, dealing with the stigma, misinformation and providing help to those who feel helpless.
Yet when BAME people are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems, and more likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services, somewhere, somehow, justice is not being served.
For example within the South Asian community, there still exist ideas reinforced through culture such as the notion of bad spirits (Jinn) taking hold of a person’s mind. When these ideas still exist and are not tackled, we will continue adding to this misinformation and lose more people.
We need practical ideas and solutions, a mental health system that is more culturally receptive and aware of taboos relating to BAME communities, waiting times for talking therapy that don’t take months leaving people to languish on waiting lists.
We need community based support mental health groups consisting of BAME communities providing practical and culturally relevant support. We need mental health education to tackle mental health issues early, encourage openness and eradicate the stigma attached to discussing these issues in a public forum.
These are all ideas open to scrutiny in what needs to be an open and ongoing conversation.
“Over four young people a week in the UK sadly pass due to suicide.”
This year the number of children and teenagers who are taking their own lives has hit its highest rate in 14 years.
These numbers are far too high and whilst there is breath in my body and fire in my heart, I will dedicate my life to making sure that this number is lessened and that no person ever feels the pain that my brother kept hidden for reasons I will never know.
So to anyone reading this, regardless of who you are, where you live or whatever race, religion, gender or any other identity you follow.
Think about those whose minds might feel weathered and battered by the storms of their own thoughts. Talk. It’s a cliché but talk and I mean really talk. It’s a courageous thing to do.
Raise your voice in your culture and your communities that still seek to silence you.
There may be times in which you feel like the opposite but understand this, you’re an individual with thoughts, feelings and ideas that only you are capable of thinking and giving.
And that you too are important.
ParliaMentor Alumni 2015-16