A recent graduate who won an award for challenging perceptions around mental health in Punjabi communities has urged West Midlands people to mark Mental Health Awareness Week by starting conversations about their wellbeing.
Shuranjeet Singh, aged 23, from Handsworth, Birmingham, won a Thrive West Midlands Mental Health Star award in the Young Person category for his work to raise awareness of mental health issues and signpost people to support.
Organised by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Thrive awards celebrate the people, teams or organisations who have made a significant contribution to improving mental health in their area.
Thrive West Midlands Mental Health Star award winner Shuranjeet Singh
Shuranjeet set up a not-for-profit organisation called Taraki – a Punjabi word for moving forward positively – following his own experience of mental illness while studying for his undergraduate degree.
He works with four other volunteers to hold awareness sessions and educational workshops across the country for Punjabi communities.
Taraki’s projects include encouraging Punjabi men to talk openly about mental illness – the organisation’s website features personal stories and photographs of more than 50 men – and holding mental health and wellbeing workshops for Punjabi students at British universities.
Shuranjeet said: “When I became ill at university, I didn’t tell my family because I wrongly thought they wouldn’t help me. This perception is common among Punjabi men and I’m aiming to break down the stigma which can be associated with speaking openly about mental health problems.
“Mental Health Awareness Week is an ideal opportunity for people to talk to someone they trust about their mental health.”
Since Shuranjeet founded Taraki in October 2017, he has reached nearly 2,000 people – at least half of whom are from the West Midlands – by holding awareness sessions, talks and workshops.
“Winning the Thrive Award shows the value of the work we’re doing and is enabling me to help more people by developing new networks, particularly in the charity and healthcare sectors,” he added.
Thrive West Midlands was launched by the WMCA to deliver positive outcomes for local people by improving their health and wellbeing, both mental and physical.
The awards form part of the wider Thrive West Midlands action plan on mental health, which focuses on the experience of real people with mental health needs alongside the expert knowledge of professional mental health practitioners and organisations.
Sean Russell, director of implementation of Thrive West Midlands, said: “The Thrive awards celebrate the amazing people who are making a real difference to mental health, as part of our commitment to improve the quality of life for everyone across the West Midlands.
“It’s great news that winning an award is helping Shuranjeet to increase awareness of mental health issues among Punjabi communities.”
Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May. For more information, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk