Social interaction, sense of belonging and connection to others are all important to a person’s wellbeing and supports positive mental health. Being part of a community provides people with these crucial sources of support and it’s important that we as a community foster an environment where everyone feels like they belong and is a place of support and solace in times of need.
Stigma, according to the Cambridge dictionary, means, “a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in a society have about something, especially when this is unfair”. One of the things that may prevent people from seeking support or talking about the difficulties they are facing may be due to the stigma surrounding certain issues. Issues that we may not always talk about openly within our community. However, the taboos and silence around some of these issues have often affected people within our LPSUK community, in some cases to tragic and devastating extents.
Therefore, in this directory we have brought together a collection of stories of some of these issues to make visible the real stories of people in our community.
We invite you to consider in reading these pieces, the role of our community, and for you as a responsible member of the community in reducing stigma around these issues, creating a sense of belonging for all individuals and moving us to action that we can take to better support each other in times of personal and family crisis.
LPSUK would like to thank the families of those who have lost someone because of mental illness for assisting us in sharing this message. We have chosen to use green as the colour of the Samaj diary – green is the international colour for mental health awareness and is often seen as the colour of optimism, new beginnings and hope. Green is also the colour of the heart Chakra; let’s open our hearts and our minds.
The most common reason people don’t recognise the existence of mental illness is that it has never touched their lives, it isn’t part of their perceptions and therefore the reality of mental illness itself comes into doubt. Another reason is that, when people discover cases of mental illness in their families, they see it as source of great shame and then hide the fact from the world. This means that the person concerned does not get the support they need. That must change now.
It is important to understand what mental illness is – a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes. Mental illness can take many forms, some are mild and only interfere in limited ways with daily life, but others are so severe that a person may need care in a hospital. Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, income or social status.
Many people with serious mental illnesses are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.
Did you know, mental illness affects up to one in four of us each year, with suicide being the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK?
Our LPS community is not exempt from mental illness issues. It’s important we recognise it exists and, in particular, the impact that pressure from family and society can have on a person. Not all of us feel comfortable talking about this or feel we are able to help a person in need of support, but even as a minimum, if we spot some signs, we must not judge and we can instead diplomatically point the affected individual towards professional support that could save a life, or at least improve a life. Mahatma Gandhi himself spoke of his depression openly, which you can read about on the following webpage www.synodhelps.org/archives/1163
We have had members suffer depression, die by suicide and one even murdered due to mental illness and pressures and expectations from society can be a factor, so we must do our bit to accept and respect our role in the lives of those we interact with.
Remember, we all have the capacity to choose understanding, acceptance and empathy; to reach out into someone’s fog of despair and hopelessness, show a bit of compassion and, just maybe, help save their life.
In the words of Bill Clinton: “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all”.
I write this article in loving memory of my brother Aakash, whose life was taken away by his mental illness. I have seen all too well the devastating impact mental illness can have on our lives. My final message is to those that are suffering any form of mental illness, and I say to you, “Never let the opinions of others become the measure of your self-worth”.
Here are some links to learn more and help someone who might need it
Tulsi Rohit Patel
As individuals we live under this notion that domestic abuse does not happen to people like us, it does not happen in our community, it happens to other people but not us. This however is far from reality. The truth is that there is nothing that exempts us from becoming victims of domestic abuse in all its many forms, it can happen to anyone and sadly is probably happening more commonly than you may think.
It took a life changing event, for our eyes to be opened to the devastation of someone we love being subjected to domestic abuse which in the end led to the loss of her life. A Domestic Homicide Review was conducted which found substantial evidence to support that she had been the victim of domestic abuse, both physical and emotional, at the hands of her husband for at least the duration of their marriage.
We are often asked why did she not speak up, why did she not ask for help or quite simply why did she not just leave him. In truth it is very difficult and unfair to speculate on what she may or may not have been thinking or feeling as she is not here to tell us. In most instances the person being abused may not even realise that this is happening to them as the abuser coercively controls them through means such as isolation, intimidation, humiliation and threatening behaviour. They also manipulate such situations to persistently make themselves look more favourable in order to turn the situation around for example by promising to not repeat the event, laughing it off as a joke or even using the wishes and desires of a person against them in order to retain control. The victim is usually left with a lack of confidence and little to no self-worth, which can also affect their mental health. This pattern of abuse and victimisation then continues.
Although the truth of what happened was only revealed by the Domestic Homicide Review, we still often think about what we could have done differently and what we could have done to help. Our advice to others would be to firstly go with your gut instinct, if you feel something is wrong, do not be afraid to question it. It may be nothing, but it may also be something and that small act could end up saving someone’s life.
Secondly if you know something is wrong do not dismiss it or turn your back but actively challenge the wrong doing. If you are worried, talk to someone – a family member, a friend or even a professional body to see if they can safely step in and help.
The final thing we would say is to talk about Domestic Abuse and Mental Health, just as readily as you would for any physical illness. Let us together change this view that these are taboo subjects in our community and let us not hide away from tackling these issues. Open discussion, education and understanding is how we move forward and show that this behaviour will not be tolerated in our society.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or questioning) and Others
When I was born, like pretty much everyone, I was gendered. I was as a girl, a chokri. This one word would determine so much for me. A word that would limit me and what I could be.
When I was growing up, like many others my expression of who I am was policed. I was told what I could and couldn’t wear, what I could and couldn’t act like, who I would and wouldn’t marry. This policing of children affects everyone, it puts in place a set of rules that regulate our souls.
When I was 17, I realised I was attracted to women – this realization was contrary to everything I was told about my purpose in life (to marry a man, have children and make perfectly round rotlis). When I realised that I didn’t want the future that was set out in front of me, I couldn’t see a future for myself at all. So when I had this realization, I very calmly and (what felt at the time) rationally attempted suicide. Fortunately, this attempt was not successful but it also wasn’t the last time that suicidal thoughts/plans crossed my mind as a young person. I pretended for another few years that I wasn’t attracted to women until I got the courage to be honest with myself and with my family.
I found a range of responses to the news but I wanted everyone to know because I didn’t want anyone else to feel the way that I had. To feel like my life had no value and that there was no place for me in the world.
Initially, this news was very difficult for some of my family, but I was lucky that I had a few people that told me that their love was unconditional and that it made no difference to them who I chose to be with. Hearing this helped me to believe that there was hope for me, that I wouldn’t be rejected for being me.
Another few years later and I realised that I am not a chokri, that this word and everything it means is made up by society. I don’t feel an affinity to it, it doesn’t describe who I am or what I can do. I am non-binary, often also described as gender diverse (I am not a woman and I am not a man), I am me, I have chosen to wear what I want, to act how I want and to love who I want. Although this is very freeing, it can be very lonely when people judge you for expressing who you really are.
The way we think about gender and sexuality has been defined for us by society, and before India was colonized, our ancestors had very liberal views – you can still see this from Indian mythology. I think that as a community we can again change our attitudes, hopefully in a way that is focused on loving and accepting everyone as they are. I hope that over time that younger LGBTQ+ people in our community feel like they can be exactly who they are and still be accepted and loved by, everyone in the community – that change will start with each and every one of you.
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