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Helping Promote Access to Mental Health Supports Within the South Asian Community

Stories | 07.13.21

Navreen Kaur, a Vancouver Campus student in the Master of Counselling Psychology: School and Youth Concentration, completed her clinical practicum at Moving Forward Family Services as an intern counsellor for children and youth. Moving Forward Family Services is working towards empowering underserved communities through accessible mental health services.   

In the South Asian community, focusing on mental health and counselling has a deeply rooted shame attached to it. This is because it involves talking about personal stories to a stranger. The South Asian Culture is a collectivist culture, and it is often expected to keep personal talks within the family unit. It is very important to have these conversations as this gives an opportunity for people to open and understand that it is normal to talk about emotions and feelings. There is a lack of psychoeducation related to mental health, which is also one of my goals in my conversations with clients.  

I was born and brought up in Punjab, India and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia for graduate school. I had to advocate for myself in my choice to travel 10,000 kilometers to study about mental health and counselling. Adler University seemed to be a safe place for me to learn and begin my advocacy for social justice that is now part of my practice as part of the child and youth cohort of the program. In addition to my practicum and classwork, I have found the Social Justice Summit topics have inculcated in me the perspectives needed to be a socially responsible practitioner.   

My supervisor at my site is a South Asian male who has been advocating and raising awareness about mental health in the Punjabi community. I am fluent in two other languages in addition to English which has enabled my experience at this site as they serve the Punjabi/South Asian community. This site has given me a platform where I can talk with the Punjabi/South Asian community about mental health, an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have within my community. I ran psychoeducational groups for the children of immigrants and middle-aged women as well. This population is of deep interest to me as an East Indian woman.  

One of the most important parts of my work has been presenting for talk shows within the South Asian community. I have had the opportunity to speak with PTC Punjabi and Zee TV. I have presented about various topic ranging from understanding stress to anger management. There have also been high rates of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, which I have been addressing with populations. 

My focus in this work with Moving Forward Family Services was to keep the community informed about mental health. Being in North America, people have had to adapt to the fast-paced western lifestyle here. There are a lot of advantages to that but there are also repercussions as well. It’s important to understand how change in lifestyle affects mental health and to address it.  

I hope that the more we talk about the importance of mental health, the less the subject is stigmatized, so that that people can speak freely about their struggles with mental health.  

After I complete my master’s degree, I would like to work as a school counselor after graduation to gain experience working with you. After that, I would like to earn a Psy.D. degree and eventually start my own practice.  

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