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Nawal MustafaIn a recent article published in The Conversation, doctoral candidate Nawal Mustafa stresses the importance of culturally sound therapy for South Asian communities.

Doctoral candidate writes about mental health challenges in South Asian communities

A silent mental health crisis exacerbated by stigmatization exists in South Asian communities, writes UWindsor doctoral student Nawal Mustafa in a recent article published in The Conversation.

“Many studies have shown that South Asian immigrants in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom experience high rates of mental health disorders, sometimes higher than their peers,” Mustafa writes. Reasons may include intergenerational conflict or the stress of adapting to western society.

To address this, mental health professionals need to practise “culturally sound therapy,” Mustafa says.

“Mental health professionals must actively make an effort in understanding their client’s cultural background and belief system through continued education and consultation with colleagues from a similar cultural background.”

Mustafa is a PhD candidate in clinical neuropsychology whose research involves adapting cognitive assessment methods to people who speak Urdu or Hindi. She is also the Instagram phenom @Braincoach, passing on her science-based knowledge and helpful tips about how to improve mental health to her 648,000 followers.

Having moved to Canada from Pakistan when she was 12, Mustafa understands the cultural challenges faced by South Asian immigrants.

“Children of South Asian immigrants may face challenges associated with the pressure of straddling two different worlds,” she writes in her article. “While trying to fit into a western society that prides itself on individual expression, they may find themselves navigating a culture at home where personal boundaries are blurred, and self-identity is determined by the validation of their family and community.”

—Sarah Sacheli