Psychological problems among immigrants

Psychological Problems Among Immigrants
Sajjan Singh Bajwa, Ph.D.*
* Formerly Professor, Khalsa College Amritsar and Asst. Professor, University of Southern California : 1461 W. Nancy Lane, Porterville. CA 93257. (USA) Thoughts give rise to desires, desires shape actions, actions become habits, and habits make character. All desires may or may not be fulfilled. The satisfied desires give rise to more desires and an individual becomes completely absorbed in the chain of fulfilled and unfulfilled desires. Such side reaction disrupts the normal cycle of character that becomes the cause of mental diseases. Guru Nanak warns us that ego is the worst kind of disease - Nanak haume rog bura and haume deerag rog ha - which creates illness. Ego or "I-am"-ness regulates behavior of a self-centered person and creates social and other problems. Such individuals resist any change in their regular pattern of behavior, culminating into mental ailment. Mental illness also occurs due to suffering, which is a state of mind and a reaction to happenings in surroundings. Change of ideas and the right attitude can help solve further erosion of mental health. Like other immigrant communities, Sikhs have their share of psychological and mental health problems. The ones living in Punjab have the indigenous problems whereas those living in the West have both Western as well as Eastern mental health problems. Such indigenous problems in Punjab include anxiety, alcoholism, addiction to drugs, chemical imbalance, post-third Holocaust (1984-1994) trauma, suicide, etc. Anxiety is caused by unproductive and unnecessary stress developed by worries concerning children, young daughters, constant nagging by wife jealousy of neighbors and distant relatives, unscrupulous spending by one spouse without consulting the other, high debts on farming land, joblessness of educated people, and joblessness among young people, etc. Anxiety leads to depression, sleeplessness, loss of hunger and, ultimately, to suicide. Depression after abortion, and sterilization of males and females are rampant among Sikhs, especially in villages of Punjab. Such methods are going to decrease the overall population of the Sikhs, leading to drastic consequences in the future. Abortion is prevalent in whole of India due to ultrasound facility which shows the sex of the child. Female children are aborted due to dowry. Mutilation of any body-part is prohibited in Sikhs religiously. The Sikhs are not to deal with people who kill girls (kurimâr) according to the moral code. Also, the Sikhs are not to cut any part of their bodies, including hair, as it is the Will of God or Hukam - Rub da bhana. Then severance of male or female organs, is against Sikhs religion. Akal Takat and SGPC should help to stop such barbaric treatment of innocent women who undergo severe and uncontrollable pain and depression after abortion. Hukamnama should be enforced against female foeticide. Nobody seems to recognize the the mother’s paind and depression. Some women commit suicide. Infection of the reproductive organs sometimes also leads to sterility and death of already depressed person. The debt on farming land is becoming a major cause of suicide among Sikh farmers. The Western people, especially Americans, are overloaded with daily work and some are "burnt out" due to stress. The industrial trade wars and fast information system have compounded the situation. Some Western people get panic attacks, dizziness, headaches, child abuse and neglect, phobias (fear), obsessive compulsive disorder (repetition of some ideas or works continuously), depression, bipolar disorder (mood swings), schizophrenia (different ideas in mind), bulimia (eating disorder), anorexia nervosa (loss of appetite), post traumatic disorder, personality disorder, dementia (loss of brain function), Alzheimer’s disease (loss of memory), etc. General causes of mental diseases are chemical imbalance of serotonin in brain, birth defect, brain trauma, and intolerable changes in environments and culture. Mental diseases can be recognized by their symptoms, such as delusion, depression, denial by patient, use of alcohol and drugs, sleeplessness, loss of hunger, avoiding and losing interest in friends, relatives and work, threatening others, increase in anger, threatening to commit suicide, deep anxiety, fear of jail, loss of money, emotional changes, shirking daily work, hallucination, keeping silent, change in behavior, loss of decision making ability, hostile behavior, headaches, etc. The presence of any one or more symptoms shows mental sickness. Treatment which varies according to symptoms, involves medicines such as Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox, etc. and psychotherapy with the help of a physician. Exercise, such as jogging an hour in the evening and morning, food, including all vitamins and minerals and lots of protein (pulses, eggs, cheese), fruits, vegetables, and staying happy, keep mental ailments away. The Sikhs living in the West are engrossed with both types of mental ailments. They work very hard almost all the time. In the process, they neglect children, family, culture, language, etc. Another way to look at this situation is the conflict between religion and science. When Sikhs come to Western countries, they are deeply religious. As they get involved in science driven world, they slowly slip from their religion. Though the purpose of both religion and science is to improve the life of people, science has provided more comfortable life to people in the West who follow sensible laws and give respect to every religion. However, comfortable life also brings mental problems along with it. Mental distortion originates from frustrations in modern life-style leading towards anxiety that is the mother of mental ailments affecting the personality of an individual, and Sikhs are no exception to this generalization. There may be no problems for a person who is busy with one’s daily life. Others want to know the meaning of life and ultimately would like to join God, so as to get rid of birth and death - the ultimate release from mental and physical problems. Sikh scriptures have several hymns relating to the cause, prevention and treatment of mental problems. The control of mind is first required to prevent and treat mental health problems. One can conquer the whole world by controlling the mind - mun jeetey jag jeet - which is also Divine Light and mind must recognize its true nature - man tu jot sarup hain, apna mool pachhan. According to Sikhism, mind can be controlled by repeating His Name, with full attention, and accepting His Will or Hukam. Such person - or mind - modified oneself according to Hukam and follows Sikh Code of Conduct: earning honestly - kirt karna, sharing with others - vand shakna, repeating His Name - nam japna, and protecting oneself-teg fateh. The inner state of mind - happiness, peace, bliss, love and humility - prevails and outer state of mind - anxiety, jealousy, anger, greed, pride, disappear, leading life devoid of mental disorders. The Sikh organizations should start training priests and students in colleges in counseling, social work, and mental diseases. The trained people should help Sikh masses to solve social and psychological problems.


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