NELFT Talks... cultural presentation of depression | NELFT Talks

NELFT Talks... cultural presentation of depression | NELFT Talks

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Read the latest NELFTtalks blogs from our stakeholders where they will be sharing their views on recent developments at NELFT and sharing advice on a range of topics.

NELFT Talks... cultural presentation of depression

My passion for this area of research was ignited by my personal and professional experiences. As an individual born in the UK with British nationality and Indian ethnicity, I have been brought up to speak both English and Punjabi. This exposure to Eastern and Western culture and upbringing has resulted in me developing a unique fusion of multiple cultural identities. These rich life experiences influenced the way I began to contemplate the similarities and differences in the presentation of mental ill-health within the Eastern and Western communities.

My search for literature on cultural depression... highlighted a current lack of culturally specific assessment tools and specialist service provisions for this cohort. This led to my passion for developing a new culturally specific assessment of depression in the Punjabi language titled ‘Punjabi Depression Inventory (PDI)’.

From birth, I resided in an extended family, with three generations living in one household. Growing up, I was curious about the events that led to my grandfather’s death, a topic that was never discussed in detail. On a recent trip to India, I discovered a photograph of my grandfather’s remains. Through conversations with family members, it became evident that my grandfather had been a victim of the violence that erupted following Operation Blue Star in Amritsar, India in 1984. At the time, it was extremely dangerous to be identified as a Sikh and my grandmother had no option but to disguise herself as a Hindu in order to go into public to collect my grandfather’s belongings. A short while later, the violence became so unbearable that my grandmother was forced to migrate to the UK for her safety, with her children.

Growing up, I was curious about the events that led to my grandfather’s death, a topic that was never discussed in detail.

Unfortunately, my grandmother was unable to speak fluent English, but she and her children would often present somatic complaints to their doctor with no organic pathology. Particularly, they experienced problems in describing in Punjabi their fluctuations in the mood to health professionals who only understood English. As I became older and developed a broader understanding, I began to question how the trauma of my grandfather’s death, and the subsequent migration to the UK, affected my grandmother and her children psychologically. Once I began my doctoral training in Counselling Psychology, my interest in these difficulties deepened. However, my search for literature on cultural depression[1], particularly in relation to Punjabi-speaking migrants originating from India who now permanently reside in the UK, highlighted a current lack of culturally specific assessment tools and specialist service provisions for this cohort. This led to my passion for developing a new culturally specific assessment of depression in the Punjabi language titled ‘Punjabi Depression Inventory (PDI)’.

The PDI has a total of 14 items based on four factors (deflated, somatic, religion and crying). Although it was a relatively small-scale quantitative study, it is hoped the findings will encourage other researchers to continue studying the cultural construct of depression and the impact this has on mental health services. With an increasing evidence base, it is hoped that in the near future, therapies will be tailor-made to suit the needs to the study’s target cohort through a comprehensive cultural assessment, formulation, and treatment plan. From a curricula and training perspective, it is hoped that the PDI could possibly be used as an aid to provide training to help mental health professionals to enhance their cultural knowledge of working with Punjabi-speaking migrants from India, who now permanently reside in the UK.

[1] A combination of psychological and non-psychological symptoms (such as somatic) that are considered to be specific to a particular society or culture.

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