The stigma around mental health and substance abuse is easing in the South Asian community, and a new donation from TD Bank Group aims to help keep the conversation flowing.
The $40,000 will help The Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society launch a new recovery support program for South Asian people living in the Okanagan.
The program will provide drop-in sessions for people seeking help fighting mental health challenges associated with addiction. The initiative comes at a critical time following a Fraser Health study that suggested South Asian people "may be more likely to die from an overdose than non-South Asian people."
The funding will also go toward helping to improve communication between parents and children around drug use and gang culture.
"Our community is not immune to the societal issues that many British Columbians are facing, including the opioid crisis and mental health challenges," said Amarjit Singh Lalli, President, The Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society. "We want South Asian people who may be struggling to be able to seek help and access available resources that are both language-specific and culturally safe."
The Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society is working to recruit multiple experienced counsellors who can speak Punjabi and English to lead the drop-in sessions.
Vik Bains has been the branch manager at TD in Rutland for 11 years, and he’s been with the bank for 18 years.
"There has certainly been a history of stigma around substance abuse, however, the conversation within the South Asian community is changing. Whether in our branch or out in the community, I am talking to people who are increasingly opening up about their own personal struggles or are expressing concern over loved ones," he explains.
He just wanted to be able to help, so he reached out to TD Bank Group head office about tapping into a national funding pot.
“Hearing people speak up has been powerful because as a South Asian person myself, I grew up and mental health/addictions often (were) swept under the rug,” said Bains, who believes having resources in Punjabi will make a big difference.