British Sikh women twice as likely to face mental health issues than men, says new report
By Barfi Culture Team
26th April 2018

The sixth British Sikh Report was published yesterday and it made for grim reading, prompting calls for Sikhs to have more open discussions about mental health issues.

The annual report found that twice as many Sikh women (10%) have diagnosed mental health issues compared to Sikh men (5%). Family responsibilities were cited as among the biggest causes of stress.

Overall, a startling 4 out of 5 British Sikh women said they knew someone with poor mental health.

The way Sikhs have migrated to and settled in Britain has been a contributing factor, wrote Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, a senior lecturer at University of Birmingham.

"Despite its prevalence through successive generations to the present day, mental illness has generally not been openly discussed," writes Jhutti-Johal in the report.

"Mental ill health has traditionally been viewed through a lens of culture and religion rather than science and evidence based medicine." This has resulted in mental ill-health being viewed as something not to be spoken about, she wrote.

The British Sikh Report was launched last night at a Parliamentary event hosted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP (Labour), accompanied by MPs and activists from across the political spectrum.

It also featured a speech by the author Kal Singh and activist Neelam Heera among others.

A new campaign group called Tarakī is trying to encourage more Punjabi men to talk about mental health issues. Its founder Shuranjeet Singh also spoke at the event.

Jasvir Singh, chair of the British Sikh Report, said "Mental health has been a taboo subject for Sikhs for many years. This data helps us understand what the challenges are, and with three quarters of Sikhs knowing someone with poor mental health, it’s clear that this is something that affects all of us."

Why Sikh women?

The report has specific focus on why women are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

"The pressure to conform and existence of socially determined gender norms such as restrictions on liberty alongside notions of honour (izzat) and shame (sharam), put women at a higher risk of suffering mental illness. Therefore, the expectations for Sikh women to meet religious and cultural requirements can in themselves be the root causes of mental illness."

"In a community where one’s family and personal background is highly scrutinized, the pressure to be the ‘perfect’ bride is high. Hence, if a woman has suffered from mental health prior to marriage it is usually kept hidden and that can have repercussions after the marriage."

"Women, rather than men often juggle multiple roles - they are daughters, daughters-in-law, mothers, and wives, and within these roles, they will be juggling caring commitments for children and older family members alongside holding down a highly pressurized job."

About the Report

The BSR is based on a survey of over 2,000 British Sikhs and aims to provide quantitative data about the community at large. The results were gleaned from an online questionnaire created by an independent team. But it is not a survey that was carried out by a member of the British Polling Council.

Academic bodies, third sector organisations and various corporations were also invited to give their input on questions in the report.

The British Sikh Report is available to download from

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