Members of the Punjabi community are currently almost seven times more likely to draw on their faith, rather than state healthcare services, when stuggling with mental health challenges.
Mental health policymakers and researchers are being urged to learn from new data which has shown that less than ten percent of Punjabi patients experiencing mental health problems during the Covid pandemic attempted to access public healthcare options provided by the state.
"This research works towards more just and equitable health outcomes for all within Punjabi communities."
Previous research has already demonstrated that communities racialised as Black and minority ethnic (BAME) have experienced COVID-19 and lock-down distinctly differently from their counterparts racialised as white. BAME groups are more likely to die from COVID-19 once diagnosed and have reported higher levels of mental distress.
Taraki, a team of grassroots groups and activists with academic and lived expertise, has coordinated illuminating new research to consider the impact of COVID-19 and lock-down on the mental wellbeing of Punjabi communities.
The results, puslished this week, followed outreach involving 470 Punjabi respondents sharing their experiences, challenges, and supports.
This research covered three broad questions:
- What is the impact of COVID-19 and lock-down on the psychological well-being of Punjabi people with previous mental health challenges?
- What is the impact of COVID-19 and lock-down on the psychological well-being of Punjabi people without previous mental health challenges?
- What supports have Punjabi communities accessed during COVID-19 and lock-down?
462 responses were collected through an online survey. The vast majority of respondents were based in the United Kingdom. Some respondents were also based in the United States, Canada, Punjab and other areas around the world. Punjab is defined as both the state in north west India and the province in north east Pakistan.
40.9 percent of all respondents self-identified as having experienced mental health challenges before lock-down, compared to 51.5 percent who did not, and 7.5 percent who answered that they 'don't know'.
During analysis those who answered 'I don't know' were considered under 'yes' due to existing challenges around recognising and reporting mental distress within Punjabi communities.
Though Punjabi communities exist across faith boundaries, the majority of respondents, 87.9 percent, identified as Sikh. Six percent identified as Hindu, four percent identified as Muslim, and two percent identified as other faithbased or non faith-aligned identities.
The data shows a general decrease in mental well-being from before to during COVID-19 and lock-down. When comparing before and during responses, the average self-rated mental well-being across all respondents decreased by 18 percent.
Participants were asked what support they had turned to.
The most popular sources were: support through friends (63 percent); support through family (56 percent); support through faith (41 percent).
The least popular sources were: state healthcare services (seven percent); faith-based congregations (seven percent); private health care services (five percent).
The 43-page research paper goes into great depth disecting a range of supporting questions that were asked and is presented accessibly.
Policy and research
Learn: Stakeholders should more meaningfully engage with faith based supports to best work towards a truly integrated and equitable healthcare system.
Invest: Better mechanisms should fund mental health research undertaken at a
community level by organisations with proven reach and genuine motivation.
Invest: A healthcare research programme should be developed to engage citizen scientists and academics to undertake meaningful community-based research.
Professionals and advocates
Invest: Professionals and advocates should look towards mental health support
programming which integrates physical and mental well-being.
Invest: Advocates and existing organisations should work more closely to provide a range of low-level interventions for those experiencing mental distress.
Invest: More resources should be collated and disseminated aimed at
communicating mental health and well-being to family members who may have
diverse linguistic capabilities and/or different systems of reference.
Learn: Advocates should focus on amplifying multiply marginalised groups within Punjabi communities to ensure that their well-being needs are being best met.
Learn: Professionals and advocates should speak towards the non-biological
factors which can shape mental well-being to move towards an understanding of health around social, environmental, political, and biological determinants.
Change: Punjabi publics should better create spaces for welcoming and honest
mental health discussion predicated on non-judgement and compassion.
The Taraki team contextualised the findings within their research paper, writing: "By no means does this study claim to speak on behalf Punjabi communities as a homogeneous whole. Rather, it appreciates and vocalises the complexities within Punjabi communities, particularly for those who live at, or between, the intersection of multiple identities."
"This research aims to be a starting point for further discussion, deliberation, questioning, and curiosity, with the aim of working towards more just and equitable health outcomes for all within Punjabi communities."
"There are several aspects of this research which would usually be cast as 'limitations', but here they will be referred to as doorways to further contribute to knowledge on this vast topic. Rather than viewing knowledge as a static and timeless whole, knowledge is refined and refuted through an iterative process over years, decades, and centuries."