Holistic Approaches

Holistic Approaches

Mental health can still be an extremely taboo topic within South Asian communities. It is a topic that is infrequently discussed due to the fear of judgement. The biggest reason for this can be relayed back to the lack of knowledge on this topic as well as a lack of appropriate words that exist to describe specific illnesses and those who are suffering. It is time that we shift this paradigm. It is time to make mental health a part of everyday conversation, and it is time we lose the judgement. We cannot continue running away from the importance of this topic in everyday life and continue to shun those around us who are suffering.

Two Fourth-Year Naturopathic Medical Students, Bisleen Attli and Navan Sidhu, are making it their mission to break the stigma of mental health within South Asian communities through education and by promoting resiliency. They have created a campaign called all about M.E. [MENTAL EMPOWERMENT], and both offer a unique outlook on mental health due to their backgrounds in Naturopathic Medicine.

The premise of this medicine is to view patients as a whole and treat them beyond their symptoms in order to achieve life-long wellness. It looks at all aspects affecting one’s health and their life, including their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and how this is all interconnected.

Although this is different from the conventional model of medicine, Naturopathic Medicine believes in combining different forms of medicine to achieve the best results for the patient. Both Navan and Bisleen have a unique story that has steered them towards this path of medicine, instead of the more commonly chosen conventional medical route.

Read their stories below.

Bisleen Attli

“Ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted to do something with my life that revolved around helping other people become the best version of themselves. For a little while I considered going down the conventional medical school route because really, I had no knowledge of other professions that existed within the medical field. The turning point really happened for me when I got diagnosed with depression as a teenager in high school. I got the conventional medical support, but I quickly realized that it was not enough for me. Although it was helping me to manage my symptoms, it wasn’t fixing the underlying issues. I took my health into my own hands when I entered the University of Waterloo and started doing hours of research to see what I should be doing to better support my mental health. I completely changed my lifestyle. I started eating better, exercising more, and doing the self-work needed to to create an unbreakable, positive mindset. The long-term benefits from this work revolutionized my life, and along the way I discovered naturopathic medicine. Immediately upon my discovery, I knew that this was the career choice for me. I wanted to support people in making long-term, life-long changes that would revolutionize their lives just like how the principles of naturopathic medicine helped me to revolutionize my life.”

Navan Sidhu

“I would say my journey to get to where I am was an interesting one. Similar to lots of Indian kids, I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. However when I was in university, I was feeling quite limited in my career options. I always knew I wanted to be in science and medicine. But I also appreciated the role of nutrition, and the impact food has on our health and mood. I saw an ad for my current naturopathic medical program in my university agenda, and I immediately knew it was what I wanted. It was the perfect combination of medicine, nutrition and lifestyle changes. Even though my Dad wanted me to go to medical school and I still wrote the MCAT, I knew where my heart actually belonged. I became obsessed with the topic of naturopathic medicine and treating the root cause of an illness. I especially loved it due to the emphasis we place on the importance of mental health in our lives. However, although there are so many Indian herbal remedies that we also study in naturopathic medicine, it was still quite the challenge to convince my parents about this unconventional path. Slowly they came around to it when they realized the value in this growing field, and the value in both natural and traditional medicines for certain conditions. At the end of the day, I am glad I decided to go with my gut and follow my heart. I am grateful for healthcare that is integrative and looks at patient’s individually, taking their life, physical health, mental health and environment into consideration.”

Although their journeys have been different, Navan and Bisleen both agree that to successfully support an individual either suffering from a mental illness or simply someone who wants to improve their mental health, you must go beyond their presenting symptoms. Having great mental health consists of a complex and intricate relationship between both the mental, physical, environmental, emotional, and spiritual realms of health. The biggest challenge is to convince others of the importance of taking a holistic approach if life-long wellness is to be achieved. The conventional and naturopathic models must align to allow a patient to receive the utmost benefit. In relation back to South Asian communities, we must understand this connection and become mini-mental health advocates in our lives if we want to see change. We must be brave for those who are afraid and have as many conversations about this topic as possible to break the judgement and stigma.

We must become the change that we want to see within our community.

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