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Alchemy Arts

Podcast – Mental Health and Stigma Within BME Communities

Mental health…… It’s an issue that often goes un-discussed in our society, particularly in the South Asian community. Over the last few years Alchemy Arts has been working with its creative and clinical partners across the country to develop a national programme that looks at creating an innovative resource for the BME community to tap into.

Alchemy has found that many individuals and family members in the British and Ethnic Minorities (BME) community were not gaining the appropriate culturally specific or sensitive support which was vitally needed in the community. This was leading to mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and in some cases, suicide. We also found there to be a link between substance misuse and mental health so felt that it was important that we created an innovative project that would take a holistic approach in supporting individuals from our community.

This podcast series is an Alchemy Arts production funded by BlueSci as part of their B&ME Mental Health Community Grant. As part of the project we engaged Blue Shoes Production in recording and editing this pod cast. We envisage this to be a platform to launch a pilot project in Manchester and then roll it out nationally with our partners in Leicester, Birmingham and London.

In order to promote a wide discourse on mental health our project seeks to address the barriers that the B&ME community has in accessing support by speaking to members of the South Asian Community from a variety of different backgrounds and who may have had a lived experience with a mental health condition themselves or have direct experience through a close friend or family member.

Our aim overall is to seek to provide representation to seldom heard voices from communities that often go unheard in Britain. By stimulating discussion on the topic of mental health, we hope that it will start a conversation in the community that will help to break the stigmas surrounding mental health conditions. We hope that the podcast series will offer listeners an opportunity to learn more about the support bases that are available for South Asians that are suffering with mental health issues in order to open up a dialogue for those who have felt unable to come forward. Here we share a few of the participants’ profiles – you can listen to the podcast in full below.

Afzal Khan (LISTEN HERE)

Photo by Ian Hinchliffe/LNP/REX/Shutterstock (8553202c)

Afzal Khan is the Labour Member of Parliament for Gorton. He is the Shadow minister for immigration and is a former mayor of Manchester. Afzal came to the UK from Pakistan as a young boy and has chosen to speak about mental health in order to fulfil his role as a representative for his constituents and to raise awareness about this issue in the British South Asian community.


Hussain is an activist for South Asian and minority representation in the LGBT community. He describes himself as being part of a minority within a minority, and he has also struggled with mental health issues himself. He wanted to share his story, his concerns with how mental health is treated within the South Asian community he grew up in, and how he is hoping to be part of the change by speaking out and adding transparency to the issues.

Pakistani Woman (LISTEN HERE)

This contributor wanted to remain anonymous. She is a Pakistani woman living in Manchester, and mother of 4 children, one of which has learning disabilities and suffers from mental health issues. As someone who has to care for somebody dealing with these issues, she has a unique perspective on the support that is available, and what improvements need to be made. We had a voice actor read out her responses.

Hadar Zaman (LISTEN HERE)

Hadar Zaman is chief pharmacist for a mental health service provider called Alternative Futures, located in the North West of England. He is also a senior lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at the University of Bradford, and wanted to share his knowledge on the topic of mental health.

Rezwana Akhtar (LISTEN HERE)

Rezwana Akhtar is a pharmacy student and second generation Bangladeshi who suffered with depression during 2012 and 2013. She has chosen to speak out about her experiences with mental health issues, in order to generate discussion on the topic, and to advocate the need for more specialised platforms for South Asians to have their voices heard without feeling stigmatised.


Adil Mohammed Javed is an Actor, Writer and the founder of Alchemy Arts. Adil opens up about his personal struggles with mental health, the people around him that came to him for support, and the work that he is doing to provide a platform for people that are suffering with mental health issues in the community.

Asian Girl – wants to remain anonymous (LISTEN HERE)

‘Asian Girl’ (who has decided to remain anonymous) is a pharmacy student who is currently studying at the University of Bradford. She has openly discussed her family’s struggle with mental health, the stigmas that are involved, generational divides in how mental health issues are viewed in the community, and family support structures.

Shahid Latif (LISTEN HERE)

Shahid Latif is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director for Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. His varied roles include school governor and weekly radio anchor for a medical programme on LRB Digital radio from June 2017 until June 2018, occasionally hosting a medical programme on Ramadan Radio on Leicester occasionally. Shahid has worked for the BME groups for more than 10 years and completed qualitative research projects for the minority groups particularly within the Muslim population where he worked on the overlap between cultural beliefs and mental health problems, also publishing papers in this area and presenting at conferences and hosting free workshops within communities. In addition he’s been a regular feature on multi-ethnic television channels and radio stations including BBC Asian Network on their panel of experts providing awareness and understanding of mental health conditions of the minority groups.

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