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Issue Date:  March 2014, Posted On: 4/7/2014

Saheli and Allies Kick Off Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being Initiative

Over 55 people from the Indian, Nepalese and Pakistani communities gathered on Sunday to kick off Saheli Boston's Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being Initiative. The event was organized and planned by Saheli to introduce the organization's new initiative on raising awareness about mental health and emotional well-being in the South Asian community. This initiative is chaired by Saheli Board member Dr. Kumkum Pareek Malik and Co-chaired by Neelam Wali.

Saheli Boston is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting South Asian women, children and families in the New England area.

"We want the entire community to be part of this," said Dr. Malik. "Mental health and emotional well-being is a community need, and it is a key area in everyone's life. We just do not know how to say it, and we do not know how to support people who are going through a rough time. This initiative will fill a void in our community."

Added Wali: "The community alliance event was a new beginning for Saheli's work connecting with the South Asian community in Massachusetts. This flagship program was started in partnership with Harvard Pilgrim Health.  From the reaction of the attendees and the number of community leaders in attendance, it is very clear that the need for such a program exists. We need to come together as a community."

Some of the community leaders and organizations represented at the meeting were: Latha Mangipudi., State Rep. from New Hampshire; Leverett Wing, Asian communities activist and Patrick Asian American Commission/Advisory Council; Dr. Nadeem Afridi, representing American Pakistani Physicians of New England, Hindi Manch, TiE Boston, Triveni School of Dance, Chinmaya Mission Boston, South Shore Mental Health, United India Association, Indian Circle for Caring USA Inc., Aligarh Alumni Association of New England, Sounds of India, Palakurthi Foundation, Lokvani, Setu Foundation, India Association of New Hampshire, Indian American Forum for Political Education, Indian Catholic Association of New England, Shakti women's group, Indian Society of Worcester, ITNGreaterBoston, Dignified Transportation for Seniors, India Association of Greater Boston, Ekal Vidyalaya of New England and Shri Dwarkamai

Participants discussed issues in a round table format, sharing their thoughts and expressing their opinions. Dr. Malik led the discussion, reminding participants that "knowledge is power." The issues discussed by the participants included from the meaning of mental health and emotional well-being to the perception of such issues in the South Asian community. Some attendees talked about wishing they had known what was going on with their friends in terms of mental and emotional well-being issues. Others shared personal stories about their own struggles with depression, or with just not knowing where to turn to during a rough patch in their lives.  

"It was eye-opening for me to see the enthusiasm and the passion with which the community embraced the exercise and was willing to talk about a taboo subject," said Dr. Malik.  "We need to talk about this," was the theme that recurred again and again throughout the afternoon's conversations."

Saheli sincerely appreciates the large turn out and support extended by all those who came. They gave Saheli a loud and clear message: it is time to put this issue on the forefront, because it is already an issue in households across the state. We must take action. The initiative is supported by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

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