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Oldham Temple and TOG Mind join hands to tackle mental health stigma in South Asian communities

Shree Swaminarayan Mandir, Oldham, is hosting a wellbeing event to challenge mental health stigmas in South Asian communities on Saturday, 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.

In recognition of the need to address mental health concerns among the temple’s multi-generational congregation, the Yuvak Mandal, a temple youth group committed to serving the community, 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 aware of how my grandad doesn’t talk about his feelings and keeps everything bottled up.

“Things are changing and improving slowly, but many families 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 awareness, making community events which share mental health resources and knowledge especially necessary.

Karen Hughes, a Tameside Oldham and Glossop Mind representative, 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 its 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 currently working 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 hope it will help those struggling to break past the stigma to seek the help they need and deserve 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.”

*Info: Shree Swaminarayan Mandir

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