SOCH was featured on Brampton Guardian. Read the full article here.
Two best friends coming together to work for the community and bring about a change.
That’s how Jasmeet Chagger describes the work she’s doing alongside fellow registered nurse Maneet Chahal.
The Brampton residents co-founded Soch Mental Health, to spotlight mental health among South Asians with the aim of changing perceptions about the subject that carries a stigma in the community.
Drawing on their personal life experiences with family members struggling with addiction and mental health combined with seeing how South Asians connected to services still face language and cultural barriers, the pair knew they wanted to do something to provide equitable support.
“We were going that extra mile speaking to them in Hindi or Punjabi, explaining to the family what our role is, and then that made us think ‘these families are connected to services, but they still are so lost with mental health, there’s still such a stigma,’” Chagger recalled about her experience working in community mental health nursing in Peel.
Launched in 2015, Soch Mental Health is a health promotion initiative focused on education, prevention and building resiliency within the community among young adults and seniors, through YouTube, Instagram and virtual and in-person events.
The word Soch in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi means “to think” or “thought” and the goal is “to change our community’s Soch or their thinking about mental health,” explained Chagger.
The duo facilitates storytelling and discussion-based workshops and series on topics like youth empowerment, coping with depression and anxiety, addictions, dating and divorce, the challenges faced by South Asian daughters-in law and setting boundaries, a South Asian men’s forum and a South Asian Punjabi grief support group.
They’ve also partnered with Sheridan College to produce short films in English and Punjabi around mental health challenges of South Asian international students, with plans in the works to release more videos in collaboration with other post-secondary institutions in the GTA.
Chagger said when it comes to mental health, a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work and breaking down that stigma is about providing accessible cultural support so the community can recognize mental health is an important part of their overall well-being.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they began to receive an influx of messages from people struggling who either had existing diagnoses or who hadn’t previously considered their mental health.
So Chagger and Chahal turned to this work full-time.
“We were like ‘our community needs support,’” Chagger said.
Chagger added they are also realizing the impact of their work in their own lives, with family and friends opening up and sharing what they’re going through.
“I’ve definitely seen that change within my own community, my own circle,” she said.
As they look ahead, Chagger said navigating periods without funding has been the biggest challenge, but by holding fundraisers and pursuing sponsorships, they are determined to continue the work.
Chagger said the goal is to eventually offer services in additional South Asian languages and expand Soch Mental Health chapters across universities.
“It all comes back down to why am I doing this? And it’s for the community, but it’s also for my younger self who had family members who were struggling with mental health issues and no one was there to guide us.”