By Dr. Gursharan Virdee, Psychologist (Supervised Practice) & Research Analyst
Over the summer and early fall, the Roshni Project team at CAMH went on a community roadshow, showcasing a series of short films co-created by young South Asian women experiencing mental illness and/or substance use concerns.
We partnered with community mental health and grassroots agencies to discuss findings from the research and share culturally informed tools, including the films we produced and tip sheets we prepared. Our roadshow took us to:
- York Region, where we participated on a panel discussion targeting educators and families alongside Womxn Offering Wisdom (WOW)
- Peel Region, where we participated in role plays and discussions about family support for South Asian youth with mental health concerns facilitated by Punjabi Community Health Services.
- Scarborough, where we discussed tools centred on faith and spirituality, and the role of South Asian and Muslim communities in recovery, in collaboration with Naseeha Youth Helpline and Islamic Foundation of Toronto.
Our final stop was in September at CAMH where we focused on reaching out to mental health service providers and researchers. We brought together multiple voices for a panel discussion that included Dr. Suvercha Pasricha (Psychiatrist, Women’s Inpatient Unit), Herleen Arora (Co-Founder WOW), Shreya Kumar (The Roshni Project member), Shreya Patel (actor, model and mental health advocate featured in Bell Let’s Talk campaign) and Mariyam Lightwala (Roshni Project research team).
We received a lot of good feedback from the panellists and guests at the event. Their participation and comments further validated the need for more culturally relevant content like the Roshni Project.
Dr. Suvercha liked the idea of using movies to convey important messages and spark discussion. She told us that “It made people think, and enabled them to express their ideas and feelings. It was unfortunate to see that many women in the audience had been struggling but never had basic care or advocacy. There is a lot of fear and apprehension to getting help.” She also pointed out the need to further educate families on concepts like mental health and empowerment.
The Roshni Project films premiered in May 2018 at the International Film Festival of South Asia. Since then, both the films and our accompanying tools have reached an even broader audience. To see the work and narratives of young South Asian women come to life through the films and have a direct impact on audiences across the city has been incredible and exciting for our research team.
The films and tips sheet are available on our website, and we are working on a toolkit so community members can continue facilitating workshops in their local area. This is all possible thanks to donors like Bhasin Consulting Inc. who supported this initiative through the CAMH Foundation.
In our next phase, we will continue to work with young South Asian women with lived experience to co-create and test the feasibility of a culturally relevant psychosocial intervention for South Asian adolescents between the ages of 16 to 20.
This phase is being funded by a generous donation from B&C Health, led by Drs. Jason Bacchiochi and Alan Chan who believe that “an important aspect of people’s stories and lives is their culture, which can be an important factor in providing effective mental health treatment.” With their support, our team is looking to support additional culturally informed mental health practices, while they are hoping to apply the studies’ findings to further enhance culturally driven psychosocial interventions at their clinic.
Our Co-Principal Investigator, Dr. Sean Kidd, is also optimistic about the project’s progress so far, and its future goals of identifying groups of young people whose needs are not being adequately met in our mental health system. “This is exactly the kind of work that, tied with other similar initiatives and system-level efforts, will better align our services to match the diverse needs of our communities and see less suffering and fewer tragic outcomes related to mental health and addiction challenges in our society, leaving no one out.”
Stay tuned for future updates about The Roshni Project via our website www.theroshniproject.com.