Joining a Taraki Forum

Joining a Taraki Forum

Reflecting on Joining the Punjabi Men’s Forum

At the beginning of this year, I decided I wanted to re-connect with the community to both offer and receive support around issues relating to mental health. I found Taraki online and after reading about the work and underpinning values, I reached out and was given a warm welcome as well as invite to attend the Punjabi Men’s Forum which occur monthly on a Wednesday evening.

A little brief background about me which hopefully will help demonstrate the inclusivity of the forum. I am a Punjabi man by birth, however whilst identifying strongly as such, I have been disconnected from the community for many years. I personally do not strictly follow a faith, nor do I speak fluently Punjabi. I am in my late 40s and have worked many years in the healthcare field and more specifically in mental health. In 2019 I experienced my first diagnosed episode of mental ill-health in the form of depression, although looking back through my life, it has probably occurred several times before.

My first experience of the forum was a small intimate group on-line which was facilitated by Taraki facilitator. I attended with some in trepidation the first time not entirely knowing what to expect. I also felt a little vulnerable putting myself out on two main counts, firstly as someone who had experienced some mental health problems and secondly not knowing how I would be accepted as someone from the peripheral of the community.

At the opening of every forum as with the first there is clear statement around who the group is for ‘for people who identify as Punjabi men’ – this sets the scene straight away of the openness and welcome to all from the facilitators and group. This has continued in every forum I have attended, as well as the explanation of the purpose of the forum to be one of safe place to talk openly and the expectations of values and behaviours of those attending to be open and positive to all attendees.

The facilitators create an sense of connection even in the virtual world of Zoom, introducing themselves and offering attendees an opportunity to introduce themselves. Whilst a very informal affair if has always felt organised. To bring everyone into the moment a breathing exercise is offered, before opening the discussions.

The topic of the session is introduced and to help guide the conversation 3 questions are posed before moving into breakout rooms. I found these small rooms a great opportunity to hear a range of thoughts and sharing of experiences as well as opportunity to be heard in terms of my own experiences and thoughts.

After the breakout rooms there is an opportunity to come back as a larger group and feedback on the themes of the discussions and have an opportunity to share thoughts with the larger group. For some this is time to express additional thoughts and discuss and for others an opportunity to just listen.

The experience I have had has overall been positive, the times I have sometimes found a challenge has been more about my own reflections on the topics. There have been times when I felt it hard to relate to the subject and sometimes to my peers, as the experiences have differed greatly. Other times I have felt a little like am imposter having sat outside the community for a few years. As a slightly older man, the connection with the generational gap has felt a little noticeable.

In saying all this, I can say with all honesty this has never come from the forums itself or the participants who offer nothing but warmth and support. The inclusivity of the group is always present and the connections that are made are supportive with an overwhelming sense of kindness. I have met many people who are inspiring and have helped both indirectly and directly to my continued growth as a person. Through the forum is has led me to reflect more on my experiences and contribute to supporting others as well. I have also made new connections from the forum which have continued outside the monthly groups.

The forums have paused for the summer break, I for one will miss the monthly opportunity to connect talk for the 90 minutes and looking forward to the return in September.

If you have ever considered joining in on one the many forums, I can strongly recommend it, I am sure you will be welcomed, it can be a daunting thought but the support is there to connect with others from the community.

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