Mental health films promoting help-seeking behaviours for South Asian international students launched by Sheridan, SOCH and the CICMH
At a virtual event with more than 230 attendees from Canada, India and the U.K., Sheridan, SOCH and the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH), premiered five short films in English and Punjabi focused on the mental health of international students from the South Asian community. The first-of-its-kind collaboration called The Pardesi Project, debuts at a time when isolation, disruption and change are bringing to the fore increased concerns around mental health.
“Bringing community together to talk about an often stigmatized topic like mental health is crucial tomotivate change,” says Dr. Janet Morrison, President and Vice Chancellor. “I’m so proud of the partnership that inspired The Pardesi Project to ensure the needs of our South Asian community are being addressed.”
At Sheridan, international students come to study from more than 110 different countries with the majority from South Asia. To provide the most impactful, accessible and effective supports to students, culturally-sensitive supports are a necessity.
“Mental health challenges are of heightened concern for international students as they may face isolation living away from family and friends, language barriers, culture shock and uncertainty navigating new health systems,” says Leah State, Manager of Wellness and Counselling at Sheridan. “The Pardesi Project tackles these challenging topics through storytelling.”
The five films were developed in consultation with the three partner organizations, inspired by issues their front-line staff have encountered through work with South Asian international students. Scriptwriter and director Anuradha Grover-Tejpal developed films around those issues. They include: An Introduction to Mental Health (English), Adjusting to Canada (English), Depression (Punjabi), Risky Behaviours-Alcohol (Punjabi) and Addressing Suicide (Punjabi).
Maneet Chahal and Jasmeet Chagger, founders of SOCH and community health nurses, were an integral part of The Pardesi Project partnership. Leveraging their expertise in working with the South Asian community on mental health matters for many years, they ensured the video content reflected real-world scenarios and promoted help-seeking behaviours. “We came together to find a creative solution to help international students with culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services,” says Chagger. Chahal adds: “We’re challenging the status quo and trying to change how mental health conversations take place. We need to think of innovative strategies. The Pardesi Project is what out-of-the-box thinking looks like.”
In addition to screening the short films, The Pardesi Project event featured Q&A with members of the South Asian community including international students, and actors in the films, and remarks fromSonia Sidhu, MP of Brampton South, Councillor Harkirat Singh from the City of Brampton and Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction and MPP for Brampton South. Artist Harjot Ghuman-Matharu performed an original spoken word poem and singer/songwriter Om Karr shared one of his songs with the audience.
Now that the videos have premiered, they are available to be watched and shared via SOCH’s YouTube channel. The partner organizations hope that students, their families and friends – whether at Sheridan or other educational institutions - will be inspired by them to speak more openly about mental health and feel confident accessing resources and supports.
About mental health at Sheridan
Health and wellness are a top priority for Sheridan asoutlined in its Strategic Plan. Earlier in 2021, Sheridan signed the Okanagan Charter, which calls on Canadian postsecondary institutions to embed health into all aspects of campus culture and to lead health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally. Sheridan recently launched a community-wide wellness strategy called Sheridan Wellness: Our Strategy for Community Wellbeing. It will serve as a roadmap for the college to fulfill tenets of the Charter. It was developed using a consultative and collaborative process with multiple opportunities for employees and students to contribute their voices. Its components include a whole systems approach, healthy supportive environments, promoting lifelong wellness, and inclusive wellness services, each with corresponding one-year action items.