Over the last few months, City Sikhs has been working to train up people from the Sikh community to become qualified Mental Health First Aiders across the country. The course is being provided free-of-charge as part of the charity’s ongoing sewa (voluntary work) to the British Sikh community. So far, 37 people have been trained up in London and in Bradford by City Sikh volunteer and award-winning charity founder Neelam Heera.
The most recent training session took place at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Bradford, with 16 people from the local congregation becoming qualified Mental Health First Aiders and the first port of call for people with poor mental health. The training coincided with the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, and it was seen as a fitting way to honour the first Sikh Guru’s memory.
Although some course providers charge up to £250 per person for the two-day training course, City Sikhs is looking to absorb all of the costs itself in order to develop a much needed nationwide network of Sikh Mental Health First Aiders with ongoing support and help for them to create safe spaces in their local communities.
Chair of City Sikhs, Jasvir Singh, said “Poor mental health can affect anyone from any background at any time. The British Sikh Report 2018 found that 3 out of 4 British Sikhs know someone who has experienced poor mental health in the previous 12 months. We hope that this work will change how mental health is seen within the British Sikh community.”
Neelam Heera, the volunteer leading the mental health training, said “I’m very proud to be able to give back to the Sikh community, and I’m thankful to City Sikhs for providing the resources in training me up to become qualified. I founded the charity Cysters in order to tackle taboos surrounding reproductive wellbeing, including mental health, but the stigma attached to poor mental health remains an issue within the Sikh community. Hopefully the work being done to develop a nationwide network of Mental Health First Aiders will change that. We want to develop a long term framework, working with grassroots communities to create safe spaces to enable conversation around mental ill health.”
City Sikhs will be training up two other volunteer instructors in early 2020 who will be working alongside Neelam across the country to fill this skills gap within the British Sikh community.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Neelam Heera is a recipient of Number 10 Downing Street’s ‘Points of Light’ award. She is also the founder of Cysters, a charity that is removing cultural barriers in BAME communities surrounding reproductive and mental health issues. In early 2019, she received a special recognition at the Pride of Birmingham Awards for her work with minority communities.
Twitter: @cystersgroup / @neelamheera
City Sikhs is a progressive Sikh charity which strives to build a cohesive and inclusive society in which individuality is respected and diversity is celebrated. We provide a space for people to connect, learn, contribute and share and help people develop their professional careers. The philosophy of Sikhi and the desire to work with other faith communities for the betterment of society underpin all of the efforts of City Sikhs.
If you wish to be provided with the Mental Health First Aid training or if you are wish to donate to this project, please get in touch with City Sikhs.
For further information or quotes from Neelam Heera or from City Sikhs, please email
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