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An Interview with Angelica Quadir for South Asian Heritage Month 2023 

South Asian Heritage Month is a national campaign that is celebrated across the UK, and as with many national campaigns, the NHS and private healthcare sector proudly join in with the celebrations. Between the 17th of July and 18th of August 2023, we recognise, celebrate and commemorate as the UK unites to celebrate the contribution of South Asian people and the influence of their culture on the nation. The campaign has a different theme each year and for 2023, it is ‘Stories’. Stories of lives that connect and bring people together, no matter which culture or community you come from. The stories inspire and educate, while providing a profound expression of the human experience.  

Assistant Psychologist, Anna Tank, interviewed Psymplicity’s Operations & Compliance Team Member, Angelica Quadir to hear her story.   

Can you tell me a little bit about your background and upbringing? 

Both of my parents are Bengali and were born in what is now known as Bangladesh but was then known as East Pakistan. My mum came to the UK when she was 8 and my dad in his late teens. My sister and I were both born and brought up in the UK and overall experienced the best of both cultures growing up (and only occasionally the worst!) 

Where did you begin your journey/interest in mental health?  

My journey with mental health started early on when dealing with anxiety about pretty much everything. It was something I felt held back by, which was made worse by not understanding what it was. Now as an adult, I’ve developed a bank of coping strategies and different ways to look at things (most of the time!) and I’ve always been keen to encourage others to talk about their own experiences and struggles too, as I’ve often failed to do that myself. Having a background in Criminology has meant I’ve not really had an opportunity to work in the mental health sector until now, but I’m a firm believer of it not mattering where you work or where you are, there’s always an opportunity to positively impact those around you! 

How does being of south Asian heritage effect this? 

Although every South Asian person and family has lived a different experience of mental health and will tell a unique story, mental health is generally not recognised or talked about in our communities much and in South Asia, it is still not really considered a valid medical condition, with many stigmas attached. It generally wasn’t that recognised when I was growing up (particularly with my extended family who were of a different generation) which was likely due to a combination of the fact they didn’t grow up acknowledging it, and that there was just less information readily available on mental health in general for everyone. 

I can only imagine how greatly circumstantial mental health issues alone (not to mention Neurobiological disorders) impacted South Asian communities in Britain a few generations ago. With learning to culturally adapt, living up to societal pressures, on top of working and raising families. I’m sure they were very common but just not widely discussed, recognised and certainly not treated. 

I think a lot has changed and still is (even more so post-Pandemic). Social media (although causing a lot of harm) has given more exposure to real people living with mental health conditions and achieving great things, whilst receiving treatment – which has generally seemed to normalize talking about it at least, while encouraging others to seek help if required. 

I think this has positively impacted many South Asian’s relationship to mental health, for those living in Western countries. I personally feel it’s much easier to ask and find out how my parents are really coping, then it was for them to ask their parents that same question, suggesting the stigma seems to be fading with each generation like it is for most cultures. However that’s only for those of us living in the UK and other Western countries due to our exposure in recoginising and seeking help for it. I’m sure it’s a different story for those living in South Asia, but as it’s now so easy to connect with family and friends across the world, cultural norms in South Asia may also start to shift towards acknowledging mental health more for future generations too.  

This year’s theme is ‘Stories’, why do you think that it is important to share the stories of south Asian culture and people? 

I think it’s important to share the stories of all cultures and the people in them. Learning about our differences and similarities makes the world an interesting place as everyone has a story and something to learn from no matter who they are. I think it’s important to share the stories of South Asian culture and people, as we’ve had a significant impact on many aspects of British culture and beyond. I’m personally also interested about the impact each South Asian country has had on Britian as they’ve all contributed something different. 

Fun fact: Many Indian restaurants opening in the UK during the 1970’s in fact serve Bengali food and are run by Bangladeshi’s. They were marketed (and sometimes still are depending on the area) as Indian, because Indian food was more well known and popular with British people! 

Is there anything you would like to see change to better promote inclusion in healthcare? 

It’s great to see diversity is prevalent in health care and I think the NHS is one of the most diverse workforces in the country. Although an increase in representation at higher levels, ethnic minorities are still disproportionately underrepresented in many senior positions and it would be great to see that change! 

I think one way to better promote inclusion in healthcare, would be perhaps to look at the particular barriers that ethnic minorities might face during the application process for more senior positions, in order to ensure equal treatment and safeguarding from obstacles such as potential bias. 

Thank you so much for reading and happy South Asian Heritage month! 

Thank-you to Angelica for her candor and willingness to share her story. The unity of cultures in the UK and across public and private healthcare is one to be celebrated. Through our humanity and appreciation for one another, the reach of mental health services can extend to many communities that would otherwise struggle to be accessed.

South Asian heritage is broad and has influenced modern British culture. From delicious food and restaurants to pivotal figures of social and economic change, we have much to celebrate from South Asian communities.

Please join us this South Asian Heritage Month in recognising the contribution of people of South Asian heritage to our British healthcare systems, the present and future culture of Britain. 

Anna Tank

Anna Tank

Anna is an Assistant Psychologist specializing in CAMHS.

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Mavish S

Mavish S

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity. Since beginning undergraduate studies 13 years ago, Mavish has worked in various mental health settings within the charity, NHS and private sector. Mavish’s passion for learning and professional growth has led to a vastness of experience and accelerated growth in her career while delivering one-to-one therapy, group workshops, training and supervision for professionals and senior team management. Mavish is a keen writer and writes many of the articles on our website, as well of our self-help resources.

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