Working with South Asian Community Advocates

Gurjit ShokarMental Health Advocate
11 Jul 2024
South Asian Heritage Month

Mental Health Advocate, Gurjit Shokar’s life and that of his family was changed forever when his brother took his own life in 2021. Gurjit has spent the time since, talking to South Asian community groups about his death and asking them to change their attitudes towards what it means to “be a man” and to talk about their mental health struggles.

In October 2021, Gurjit Shoker and his family’s life took was turned upside down when his elder brother Tony tragically took his own life. In the depths of immeasurable pain and grief, Gurjit began to examine what had led Tony to this, and began by taking a long hard look in the mirror. “I realised that we as a society are at the heart of the problem. When we’re struggling, we don’t talk about it. With men especially there’s this macho code, we just get on with it, we don’t show our emotions, we don’t show weakness. ‘Man up’. I know, because I was one of those people, contributing to this culture.”

Gurjit knew he had to let people know the importance of opening up, talking to those closest to us. He didn’t want another family to go through what they had. He started giving talks at local Sikh temples where Tony had been well known, he fundraised for Mind in North Kent, raising almost £12,000, and he started talking at more and more events on mental health. Mental wellbeing in the workplace in particular is something Gurjit has focussed on, campaigning for Mental Health First Aid and Suicide Prevention courses for employees, especially in male-dominated professions. He explains, “My brother was a builder, it’s a tough, macho profession, and there is a real problem in the trade with men suffering in silence.”

Gurjit is not slowing down, he is planning an event in the autumn where people can have a safe space to talk about suicide and mental health and come up with an action plan, with the aim of a ‘zero suicide society’.

You can view one of Gurjit’s talks here, where he spoke to around 100 construction workers about the importance of talking about their mental health.