South Asians are a heterogeneous group of people that share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, geographic, and culinary threads. Their origins are in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. Asian Indians comprise the third largest Asian racial group in the United States.
The South Asian community, along with the larger Asian community, is a highly touted model minority. As a result, many, including South Asians themselves believe that mental illness and substance abuse are uncommon in this populace. This sort of mind-set serves to trivialize and ensconce the struggles, issues and stressors in these areas faced by this community. Those that are found to struggle with issues of mental illness and substance use are often misunderstood at best and stigmatized at worst.
The South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network (SAMHIN) was created two years ago with the sole purpose of addressing issues of mental illness and substance abuse. Up until now, SAMHIN has conducted over 25 community outreach events to engage and educate the community and help to address barriers to care such as stigma. PRMS has been extremely supportive in helping forward SAMHIN’s mission by sponsoring and attending the Annual Meeting and spreading awareness about the organization.
Over the past six months, SAMHIN’s website has been updated and expanded. A free mental health provider directory can be easily accessed on the website. It includes providers who are familiar with the culture, languages and religions of the South Asian community. Providers can be located based on factors as specific as language spoken and zip code. Currently, most of the directory lists providers in New Jersey though it is being expanded to include those throughout the United States.
Registering in the directory is very easy. SAMHIN encourages South Asian mental health providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, etc.) to do so by going to the website and clicking on the Provider Network tab at the top, where you can register to be a provider or current providers can update their listing.
For those who are interested in joining SAMHIN’s mission or have questions about the organization, please contact Dr. Vasudev Makhija at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vasudev N Makhija, MD: President, SAMHIN
Dr. Makhija is the President of a non-profit organization, SAMHIN, South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network. SAMHIN addresses a broad range of mental health needs of the South Asian Community in this country. Dr. Makhija has been in private practice in adult psychiatry in New Jersey for over 25 years. He is Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Seton Hall University School of Graduate Medical Education. He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has served as the President of the New Jersey Psychiatric Association (NJPA). He is currently Chair of the Council on Member Services of NJPA. He is a recipient of the prestigious Golden Merit Award for his contributions to NJPA and Exemplary Psychiatrist award from NAMI. He served on the Union County Mental Health Board for 6 years and was the Chair of the Board for two years.
Lily Arora, MD: Advisory Panel, SAMHIN
Lily Arora, MD, FAPA is board certified in psychiatry and addiction psychiatry. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Rutgers University and is in solo private practice in Morristown where she treats all psychiatric disorders in addition to substance and alcohol addiction. Dr. Arora is a dedicated advocate of bringing awareness to the issues of addiction in our society and providing effective treatment. She also has a great interest in promoting awareness and sensitivity of cultural issues and its impact in the evaluation and treatment of patients. Dr. Arora serves on the advisory panel of SAMHIN and is the editor of the Indo-American Psychiatric Association’s newsletter. She enjoys teaching, speaking, and writing about topics related to mental illness, cross-cultural issues, and addiction.