UK Punjabi alcohol support services ‘see rise in users’

People enduring alcoholism - illustrationImage copyrightVik Kainth

Some ethnic minority alcohol support services have seen an increase in inquiries following a BBC survey suggesting 27% of UK Punjabis had a family member with a problem.

There had been a rise in contacts from both alcoholics and people offering to volunteer, the organisations said.

Nottingham’s Bac-In has seen an almost sixfold increase in website hits.

UK Punjabi alcohol support services ‘see rise in users’
UK Punjabi alcohol support services ‘see rise in users’

And UK Punjabi services the First Step Foundation and the Shanti Project have also seen an increase in interest.

Sohan Sahota, of Bac-In said: “Average website hits are around 2,000 a month. We’ve had over 11,500 hits since the article.”

Jaz Rai, director of the First Step Foundation director, which works with UK Punjabis across England, said it had doubled the size of its weekly support group and was planning a women-only meeting to address the increased demand.

The Shanti Project, which works to provide culturally appropriate services for the Punjabi community in Birmingham, has also seen an increase.

Experience the stories of people affected

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Tina, a British Punjabi mother-of-two, contacted the BBC after reading its coverage of the issue.

The reports resonated very strongly with her own experiences, she said.

Her husband – a heavy drinker – had been emotionally abusive towards her, Tina said, trying to convince her that she was going mad, and taking out loans in her name to finance his drinking after losing his job as a plumber.

“There’s so much going on in Asian families that no-one addresses,” she said. “I just want our culture to open up.

“People need to wake up and realise that alcohol is poison,” she said. “I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through. I don’t want my daughter to think that it’s normal.”

Discover Tina’s world

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Tina: 20 years married to an alcoholic (opens in Facebook Messenger)

The BBC Asian Network is using Facebook Messenger to enable readers to experience Tina’s story, among others from the UK Punjabi community who have struggled with alcohol.

Sharing stories about addiction can play a key role in the path to recovery, according to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Recovering alcoholic Sanjay Bhandari told the BBC: “The thing that resonated most with me was to hear other people’s stories.

“What they experienced, what it was like, and how things got better gave me hope and inspiration, ‘Well I can do that.'”

The BBC’s coverage sparked a discussion on social media, involving Sikh MPs, support services, and people directly affected by the issue.

Twitter post by @TanDhesi: Sad to read the bitter truth known by a lot of us about the problems faced by many #British #Punjabi families due to #alcoholism & the promotion of this by some within Punjabi culture. The issue can’t be brushed under the carpet & it needs to be tackled Image Copyright @TanDhesi@TanDhesi

Twitter post by @manveerssihota: This is such an important article. I am someone who has experienced this directly. In my family, alcoholism and alcohol related complications have taken away my great-great-Nana Ji, my great-Nana Ji and my Nana Ji, and on Oct. 24, they took away my dad. Image Copyright @manveerssihota@manveerssihota

Alcohol and mental healthcare

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The psychiatric nurse who cares for people at rock bottom (opens in Facebook Messenger)

Talking about the issue openly was a good first step towards challenging cultural norms and tackling the problem head on, said Jasvir Singh, on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day programme.

“To overcome any fear of shame, it’s important to look at alcohol misuse as a health condition and treat it with empathy and understanding rather than condemnation and judgement of the person or their family.”

Jasvir Singh’s story

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‘I wanted to help, but I was just a boy’ (opens in Facebook Messenger)

Tina’s name has been changed.

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, please see the resources listed on BBC Action Line.

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