Freed from my shell

I have been with Amardeep, a service for Asian people with mental health problems, for about 18 months. My care worker is Anita Kalia and without her and the service’s help I would not be here today.

I came into contact with Amardeep when I was working with a mainstream mental health service for six months. I was achieving little with the service as I feel the staff did not understand the background I came from. Even though I was born in the UK, I found the mainstream system lacked the knowledge needed to approach and understand the views of Asian people.

Asians tend to be a community that keeps to itself and we find it difficult to interact with other cultures and societies. It is even more difficult when you have a mental health issue, as your own community rejects you. You live in isolation and feel dependent on someone who has the background knowledge and language skills to bring you out of the fear you are living in. The fear is not one of being scared of other people but the fear other people have of you. People with mental health problems are usually portrayed as unapproachable and the image of the sector is negative. The media never state the good work mental health teams do with their patients; it is only bad press they get. I hope this article will quash some of these stigmas.

When I first came to Amardeep I would keep to myself and not share in any group activities. I lived with little hope and had suicidal thoughts. I was admitted to hospital with pneumonia as well as vomiting vast amounts of blood and severe headaches. I had no idea what was happening to me. I thought I was going to die. Since then I’ve suffered panic attacks. The attacks are so strong that once I broke my hand when one lasted several hours. I became isolated and lost my friends, my wife and even members of my family did not want to know me, let alone help me.

Gradually, by working with members of the Amardeep team, I started to understand the issues. They brought me out of the shell I was living in, and soon I started to share my views and thoughts with other service users. My confidence grew each day and I was beginning to interact better with people.

I learned that we all have some problems and we are not being judged.

I developed a good understanding with my care worker. With her help, I spent nine months writing my autobiography, Pain is my Pleasure, for mental health publisher Chipmunka Publishing.

The work Amardeep has done with me has allowed me to stabilise myself to the level where I volunteer to help at its drop-in service that they provide once a week.

If you saw me on the street you would never believe I have mental health problems, as I look and feel just like an ordinary person. Long gone are the days when people would cross over when I walked down the road.

Tahir Malik uses mental services

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