How Malaysian Sikhs react to mental health? A new study has some answers

Sikhs hesitate to seek out professional help and fear going into therapy. They are also ashamed when they need to engage mental health professionals for help. What else? Counsellor and therapist HEERAN KAUR explores the issue

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Heeran Kaur (Background sketch by Chenspec / Pixabay)
By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |

How do Sikhs in Malaysia react to mental health? Well, a recent study may shine some light on the topic.

For a start, Sikhs hesitate in seeking out professional help and fear going into therapy. They are also ashamed when they need to engage mental health professionals for help.

On the bright side, younger Sikhs – those in the 20s and 30s – are ready and willing to engage mental health professionals. They also see positive changes in how they view themselves after getting mental health support.

These are some of the outcomes of what is believed to be the first full-blown study on the lived experiences of Sikhs in Malaysia seeking support for mental health.

“I was delighted that every single person I had spoken with had experienced growth on their journeys. It is a testament to my belief that the therapy process, when done correctly, has tremendous potential for leaving clients in a better place than before they embarked on their voyages. That belief guides my work ethic as a licensed counsellor,” counsellor and therapist Heeran Kaur tells Asia Samachar.

The lawyer-turned-mental health advocate had presented a paper on the topic at the International Seminar of Counselling and Well-Being (ISCWB 2020), organised by Universiti Malaya, in November 2020.

The qualitative study involved six Sikhs who either presently were in therapy or had been in therapy before.

Asked what were some key outcomes of the study, Heeran said the study noted some hesitance in seeking out professional help. For one, some participants felt ashamed approaching mental health professionals.

“Most had a tendency of comparing themselves to family members and friends within the Punjabi community including people they knew from gurdwaras and samelans [Gurmat camps] which made them question their own competence at managing their issues.

“For instance, they highlighted how they perceived themselves as weak and judged themselves harshly for considering professional support. They wondered how it was that the people they knew were seemingly able to cope with challenges without resorting to consulting professionals,” she said.

She noted that the participants were not able to pinpoint with accuracy whether the people they were referencing were actually coping well or had sought some form of support that participants were not aware of.

The people interviewed also reported feeling afraid going into therapy. The findings revealed that while a few were apprehensive because they feared the unfamiliar, others felt fearful of what might happen in therapy including being forced to face things they may not want to address.

“Some reported discomfort at opening up to strangers while others elaborated how frightening it was to confront their issues. Meanwhile, others were afraid of changes that may follow after therapy. A few were concerned about showing their vulnerabilities, weaknesses and inadequacies while others feared being cornered and attacked,” she said.

As a counsellor and therapist, Heeran said her work ranges from providing talk therapy to psycho education (basically giving current information regarding mental health including latest research, findings, therapies) and conducting treatments for clients.

She also supports paying clients who range from young children to teenagers and adults to the elderly. Some common areas include depression, anxiety and grief & loss.

Heeran can be contacted at +6016 335 9209 or heerankaur1@gmail.com.

 

RELATED STORY:

Dr Sangeeta powers formation of mental health foundation (Asia Samachar, 20 Aug 2020)

 

ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: editor@asiasamachar.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |

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