Born into the South Asian community, we often take mental health and wellness for granted. As a result, instead of being able to access mental health care, we are faced with roadblocks such as the stigma and taboo associated with mental illness. SAMHIN’s primary goal is to overcome these notions and improve the mental health of the South Asian community through educational programs on the importance of mental health and wellness and improved access to care.
South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network, SAMHIN, was formed in 2014 to address a broad range of mental health needs of the growing South Asian community in the United States, beginning with New Jersey. SAMHIN is a team of dedicated, multifaceted, determined, and passionate individuals from all walks of life with a strong desire to help uncover and fight mental illness in the South Asian community.
SAMHIN strives to meet a wide variety of mental health needs of the South Asian Community in the United States.
- Educate, engage, and empower the South Asian community to promote mental health literacy.
- Serve as a resource to provide consultation to health care policy makers and health care delivery facilities.
- Increase collaboration between existing mental health organizations that address specific aspects of mental illness, increase awareness of the existence and roles of these organizations, and decrease fragmentation in services provided to the community.
- Promote and conduct research on mental health to serve the South Asian community in the U.S.
- Develop a searchable database of South Asian mental health care providers, social services, and mental health resources to improve access to mental health care.
- Overcome the stigma of mental illness.
- Explore ways of making affordable treatment services available.
South Asians are people with origins in one of seven South Asian Countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives. They are an inherently diverse, vibrant, and multifaceted population.
According to the 2010 United States Census, there are 17.3 million Asian Americans, which is 5% of total U.S. population, with an additional 4 million identifying as multiracial Asian Americans. 3.18 million Asian Indians comprise the 3rd largest Asian racial group in the U.S., with Chinese and Filipino being the two largest groups. Other South Asians in the U.S. include: 409,163 Pakistanis, 147,300 Bangladeshis, 95,494 Nepalese, 45,381 Sri Lankan, and 19,439 Bhutanese. Those from the Maldives were not listed separately in the 2010 U.S. Census likely because of the small number.
Dr. Vasudev Makhija’s experiences growing up in Mumbai, India made him sensitive to the needs of others and inspired him to serve other people. He pursued this goal by becoming a physician and psychiatrist. After spending a decade of training and practicing in Pennsylvania and Delaware, Dr. Makhija moved to New Jersey to reinvigorate his cultural roots.
While practicing psychiatry in New Jersey for the past few decades, Dr. Makhija became involved with existing programs and helped create other programs for South Asians such as Jana Raksha Community Care Program. During this time, he realized that more needed to be done for the South Asian community. Dr. Makhija discovered many roadblocks that prevented South Asians from accessing mental health care, such as the stigma attached to mental health and the inability to find mental health providers who are culturally competent.
To seek out meaningful and practical solution to the barriers that prevent South Asians from accessing quality mental health care, address the stigma and other barriers to care, and address other mental health needs of the community, Dr. Makhija established SAMHIN, the South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network.
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