The Punjabi diaspora in UK has welcomed a new guidance system on setting up a specialist projects for people from the community who are battling alcoholism.
The guide, developed by alcohol, drugs and gambling charity Aquarius, and researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Birmingham, is based on the evaluation of an alcohol service initiative for a Punjabi community in the West Midlands.
Gurmail Singh Malhi, president, Singh Sabha Gurudwara Southhall, while speaking to The Indian Express, said, “There are several middle-aged people who are into alcoholism due to family stress, job-related issues etc. However, the charity work undertaken by our gurdwara has been helping them in every way by providing counselling or support to their families.”
Citing an example, he spoke about the transformation of an alcoholic to a teetotaler with the active support and intervention of the gurdwara, and now the same individual is spearheading the campaign in helping similarly affected Punjabis.
He said that they are also helping around 100-150 such persons in Southhall area.
“We take this new guidance in a very positive manner and will work more to rectify this problem among our own as well as other communities,” he said, adding that instead of hiding this problem, people should come forward and discuss it so that it can be rooted out.
He admitted that this problem is predominantly among men, and the number of such cases among women of the community is negligible.
The first turbaned MP in the UK, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, whose family hails from Jalandhar, said, “As in India, even in the UK, alcoholism afflicts a sizeable number of persons in our community. While a larger proportion of Punjabis abstain from alcohol, the ones who do take, take it in excess. We welcome this initiative because we want to correct it rather than taking it as a taboo.”
Gurpal Singh Oppal, a UK-based immigration expert and renowned immigration solicitor said that alcoholism is a silent and hidden killer among the community in the UK and often leads to domestic violence. There are several Punjabis who are homeless, living on the streets and most of them are alcoholics, he said. “Alcohol is becoming popular among women too due to stressful situations at work and home,” said he, adding that this initiative-new guidance on the alcoholic related problem in community-is a good move to set the things in the right manner.
According to the UK media reports, Aquarius had run the alcohol service initiative, called ‘The Shanti Project’ within the Punjabi community from 2016-19. The project was developed out of the organisation’s concern for the number of middle-aged Punjabi men presenting to accident and emergency departments with serious alcohol-related liver conditions that needed earlier detection.
Professor Galvani, Professor of Social Research and Substance Use at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “There is dearth of research into the specific needs of people in minority ethnic communities who may be using alcohol and other drugs problematically. Far more attention is needed to support our diverse communities and to determine the most effective ways of supporting people, and their families. As one community member told me, there is a habit of “parachuting in ‘white’ services” and expecting that to work.”
Report co-author, Dr Surinder Guru, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, said: “Drinking within the Punjabi community is very gendered. Heavy drinking by men is common practice but women’s drinking is frowned upon. This creates tensions in families and women can suffer rejection and shame within the community and family,” Guru said.
The authors’ recommendations also provide a framework for supporting people from other communities with alcohol problems who are not engaging with existing services.
Offering advice on setting up a project, developing a project model, project management, project delivery, as well as useful resources, the guidance has been developed from work led by substance use researcher Professor Sarah Galvani from Manchester Metropolitan.
The guidance is the first of its kind in the UK, according to a press release.
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