Oldham temple and Mind join hands in bid to tackle mental health stigma

Date published: 19 February 2024

Oldham’s £7 million temple is hosting a wellbeing event next week in a bid to challenge mental health stigmas in South Asian communities.

The gathering has been organised by Shree Swaminarayan Mandir’s Yuvak Mandal - a youth group committed to serving the community.

In recognition of the need to address mental health concerns amongst the temple’s multi-generational congregation, the Yuvak Mandal organised a dedicated session in partnership with local wellbeing charities.

Devisha Vekria, a member of the Yuvak Mandal committee, said: “It’s so important to address mental health within our community and emphasise the need for accessible support networks.

“I have seen first-hand how mental health stigma can affect us, especially in older generations.

“I live with three generations of my family and I’m really aware of how my grandad doesn’t talk about his feelings and keeps everything bottled up.

“Things are changing and improving slowly but there are a lot of families who face difficulties and don’t know where to turn.

"We wanted to do something to help educate the community about what support is available to them.”

In South Asian communities, mental health is often heavily stigmatised, with those struggling categorised as weak or told they are making excuses.

Mental health problems within many families will often be kept hidden to preserve their reputation which makes it harder for the person struggling to receive the help they need.

This stigma is often caused by a lack of education and awareness, making community events which share mental health resources and knowledge especially important.

Taking place at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir on February 24 from 7pm, the event will feature guest speaker Madhubhen Thaker, the founder of Anmol Cancer Support Group and a volunteer at TOG Mind.

Karen Hughes, a representative from Tameside Oldham and Glossop Mind, said: “TOG Mind strives to enable everyone in our communities to achieve better mental health.

“We actively seek to provide awareness to the public and groups through our new Mental Health Awareness sessions, aiming to tackle the stigma around mental health, and promote ways to wellbeing.

“We are proud to be working with the community of the Oldham Temple.” 

The temple has become a pillar of the community since opening in 1977 and its role as a community centre has grown after the new £7 million Oldham location opened in August, 2022.

It is working currently with Saheli, a charity aiming to provide support and refuge from domestic abuse to women from Black, Asian and minority communities and their children.

“Shree Swaminarayan Mandir has been steadily evolving into a community space in Oldham,” said Anil Kara, a Trustee of the temple.

“And as a community space it is important to promote mental wellbeing to help those members of our community who need that support.

“Mental health isn’t something that only affects one group of people, and it is essential that every generation knows that we support them.

“This is a significant step towards enhancing our community support networks and we really hope it will help those struggling to break past the stigma to seek the help they need and deserve to have access to.”

The temple's Yuvak Mandal plays a key role in community engagement through various programmes including educational sessions on Hinduism, interfaith forums, and outreach initiatives.

Secretary of the temple, Vinod Vekaria, said: “The Yuvak Mandal has done a brilliant job contributing to the temple’s vitality and engaging with the community.

“The upcoming wellness event is a testament to how forward thinking they are.

"They’re so committed to addressing contemporary issues that have become commonplace in the community.

“I’m proud to have them working to build the community engagement we’re known for and being so proactive when doing so.”

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