My Journey Towards Positive Health

This is a reflective blog piece written by Birmingham-based Aaron Singh Randhawa about his experiences of mental ill-health and ongoing journey in recovery. You can follow Aaron’s advocacy on his Twitter: @rhandawa_aaron

The year 2015 was supposed to be a positive year, I started university, things were looking positive, but somehow I wasn’t as happy as I should have been. I noticed that I was tired a lot, I didn’t have the energy or motivation to get out of bed. I thought nothing of it, I thought maybe I’m just overtired, but then things got worse. I started thinking negative thoughts, I made myself believe that people were against me, even my own family. Things got quite tough where I was scared to leave the house, my thoughts were getting more and more negative, the feeling of worthlessness and uselessness: every day I used to think why am I alive?

After searching on the internet, I was introduced to mental health, but I thought I can’t be depressed, us Sikhs we don’t suffer with depression or mental illness, but as time went on, things began to get worse, I then thought despite me being a Sikh I’m still human I’m the same as every other human no matter what religion or ethnicity, I started to believe yes I did suffer with mental health issues, but I was too afraid to admit it, I didn’t want to tell my family because I thought they would reject me and disown me.

I remember sitting in my room on my computer chair in the dark staring out the window crying, my mum came into my room and she noticed me upset, that’s when I built up the courage to just say look I don’t feel good in myself, and gods honest truth, the reaction was heartbreaking my mum was in tears and so was my dad. They said “son we will help you, we’re a family, we’re going to get through this, anyone can suffer with mental health issues, we love you.”

Admitting my problem was the best thing I ever did. After going to the doctors the next day, I was put on anti-depressants, and gave me support numbers which was put into place, however things didn’t stop there, as days went on I began to start hallucinating, I starting hearing evil voices inside my head, they got louder and more frequent and they increased in numbers, they were old people talking, young children singing nursery rhymes, dark demon voices talking another language, this is when I thought I’ve got a problem, turns out I’ve got psychosis too.

Was I different from everyone else? I’ve never seen a Sikh with psychosis, the elder generation would say to me your being silly it’s all in your head and they brushed it off this really brought me down. fast forward to 2019, I’m now in recovery, I’m seeing regular psychiatrists and a care coordinator, I wanted to turn my experience and knowledge to help others in similar situations as me, I wanted to raise awareness in Punjabi and Sikh culture that just because we’re Sikhs it doesn’t mean we’re are immune to mental health issues, we’re human like anyone else.

I just want anyone who sees any warning signs or begin to feel unwell, don’t suffer in silence, seek help, there are so many amazing people out there to help.. I for one will be someone who will always help any person in the best way I can, because if I can do it, why can’t anyone else?

Remember, waheguru does things for a reason. Trust god and he will put you on the right path.

Come and find me on social media, my name is Aaron Singh Randhawa and this is my journey.

Piece By Piece

This is a short reflective piece by Jagjit Singh

Anyone who has ever suffered from any type of mental health issue will know that the road to recovery is the single biggest hurdle that they will ever face in their life.

Leaving behind pills, previous behaviours and self-medication is every sufferer’s biggest anxiety. Understanding their illness when it’s being stigmatised as ‘something else’ by your nearest and dearest is a never-ending nightmare; one which the sufferer knows they cannot win because in many ways, their nearest and dearest are also going through their own traumas.

Mental illness disguised as; anxiety, depression, mild depression, bipolar, psychosis and any other ‘name’ we give it in today’s society is based on past, current and future traumas that we perceive will affect our mind, body and soul.

Infection of the mind is the first stage for any sufferer of mental illness; it’s a pain that cannot be seen by the world, only by the sufferer. It’s a crippling form of destruction, caused by the sufferer’s perceived life situation. A life situation, that he or she knows that they can control but they end up losing control to it because the pain and trauma by them is perceived too great to move forward with.

Then comes the infection of the body. Self-sabotage and destruction are the second steps, it might not only be done by the sufferer but only by those around them, which leads the sufferer into further destructive behaviour. How can a once loving and caring person end up hating themselves and everyone around them for a reason which is both unknown to them and everyone else? Why do they go into this world of self-hate? Is it because they don’t feel loved or wanted? Or is it because they don’t love themselves anymore and cannot see how anyone can even begin to see them in the same way they used to?

Finally, when the mind is gone and the body we once saw as a temple is destroyed, our trauma, pain, ego and pride then begin to slowly eat away at the soul god gave us. A soul which in its truest form is nothing but love, is infected with hate, loathing, resentment; of everything and anything that’s around them.

It takes family, commitment and love to bring the lost soul back from the darkest parts of their trauma. Only love can conquer your mind, body and soul. Without it you are an empty shell.

Today, 216 days later. The love has returned. The pain that was, isn’t. The mind that was, is healing. The body that was broken is fixed and the soul that was forgotten is sen again. Love is the only thing that can allow you to let go. Let go of your ego, your pride and your resentment for what once was and now isn’t.

I started writing this as a review for my very good friend and all-round good soul. It’s ended in something different… something better.

“Change is an inevitable part of being; but one can never change people’s perception of you, because they are themselves experiencing traumas; all yo ucan do is level up…”

#AskTwice in Punjabi Communities

This article was written by Anonymous Singh in response to the recent campaign by Time To Change around #AskTwice

In the pursuit of understanding how people are feeling, asking multiple questions should always be at the forefront of a conversation. Questions allow you to attain more detailed information and let you comprehend emotions, thoughts and feelings much better. So why in the Punjabi community are questions about mental health never asked, let alone twice?

Well… here is my take on why.

The notion of pride exists at the heart of the Punjabi community. A proud, Punjabi man is one said to be strong, closed and steadfast, however, through further investigation it is clear that pride is simply a cloak used to cover for fears of insecurity.

The negative perception of mental ‘weakness’ within the community is what makes the conversation about mental health ‘taboo’; it has become the very reason as to why we hide our emotions, thoughts and feelings rather than trying to understand them.

The conversation within the Punjabi community either doesn’t occur until it is ‘too late’, or if an individual does try and open up about their health, they are shunned, and the blame game is played. However, this should never be the case. You should be able to talk about how you feel, you should know that it is okay to talk about your mental health and you should be trying to help others by asking your friends and family how they feel.

But remember to always ask questions TWICE.

Asking someone how they feel once is usually never good enough, as the response tends to be generic, and closed, however by asking the same or similar question TWICE it not only enables the individual to provide more information, but it also showcases that you genuinely care.

Asking questions twice within our community has become a powerful notion to break the stigma around mental health, as it allows for the pride of an individual to take a step back, and the inner self to step forward and breath openly without feeling like they are burdening anyone or being seen to be weak. 

The change needs to occur, people need to be heard and the community needs to band together as a strong unit to help facilitate this. You may not be aware of the problem, but YOU can be part of the solution, by asking questions (twice) you can help many open-up and seek the guidance that they truly deserve.

The Punjabi community are a giving community, we are known for our service, but as we provide the help and service to others, do not forget those that need us at home. The battle is both physical and mental, and as a community which has been through so much, we can make progress one step at a time.

If the message wasn’t clear enough so far, allow me to put it into Layman’s terms.

Talking about how you are, how you feel and your mental health in general does NOT make you weak! Being able to speak openly about your mental health makes dealing with it so much easier, and lets you take that step forward in combatting your inner self.

Ask questions, be there, help others.

Dhan Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Dealing with Success and Grief

My name is Jasveer Singh and I work for a Sikh community organisation.


The job is a lot less heroic than it may sound. It isn’t bringing aid to crisis zones across the world like a Ravi Singh. It isn’t supporting the less abled like Manpreet Kaur. Nor is it  running educational programmes like Harwinder Singh.

I work for the Sikh Press Association. This largely involves sitting in front of a laptop or being on my phone. Nevertheless, it is something I often find myself commended for doing. Recently, after one particular night which saw a lot of praise showered upon the work of Sikh PA, I found myself feeling rather empty about it, and it wasn’t just the awkwardness of having to accept a compliment either.

I told my fiancé. I told my closest circle of friends. I told them I felt differently from how I often felt after Sikh community events, where you see sangat (Sikh congregation) get together, and you’re surrounded by Khalsa (initiated Sikhs), discussing work to further progress of the panth (Sikh path). Usually after such events, I am buzzing, I feel invigorated and inspired. This time, I felt differently.

The feeling came to me once I was alone, and away from everyone else. At first, I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I didn’t feel any different about the work that I did. I still felt it was worthwhile and supportive of the Sikh community. I didn’t feel apathetic to the praise. I felt that was all sincere. And my feeling wasn’t as simple as feeling unworthy either, a common feeling when trying to align with the greatness of the Guru, which was discussed at length at the Basics of Sikhi camp last December. Working within sangat is an ultimate blessing, one which I hope I will never take for granted.

My empty feeling that night came from something more complex. As I sat on my couch in my suit-and-tie, half-reading and not replying to dozens of post-event messages, I contemplated that feeling. Luckily, the importance of contemplation was always emphasised to me simply by seeing the word in Havelock and Park Avenue Gurdwara hukumnana (commands taken from Sikh scripture) translations since I was a child. So I have always tried to contemplate upon my feelings and actions, because from what I gathered, this was part of Sikhi.

So I thought about what was making me feel empty about what was such a positive evening, and I realised something was missing. That something, was the man who had started (co-founded) the organisation I worked for, and was being praised for working for. What I missed was Jagraj Singh.

When I realised it, I was hit with an instant wave of sadness. Jagraj Singh passed away from cancer aged just 38 years old last year in July. He passed away having begun a process of changing the world as we know it through the charity he founded, Everythings 13.

Around the middle of 2014 he began setting up the Sikh Press Association with Rupinder Kaur. She was someone I already knew, respected and trusted through our work together in the media industry. As such, when she invited me to join this project, I jumped at the chance. Not to mention, as an avid Basics of Sikhi viewer at the time, I felt blessed to have a chance to be involved.

Nearly four years later, I am still involved (Sikh PA officially launched in February 2015 and I became an employee in April 2015 for anyone wondering about our historic timeline). However, four years later, one of the main reasons I got involved – Jagraj Singh – was no longer there.

All I have ever done with my work for Sikh PA, is try to stick with the vision Jagraj Singh had for it. I have tried to do this in the same manner Rupinder Kaur, a world class PR executive, taught me when she first kicked things off with the organisation. Yet, for the first time, due to Jagraj Singh’s passing, this year it was me as the senior voice at Sikh PA, and by default the focal point of all the praise.

How do you take credit for something that isn’t yours? What do you say to getting recognition for another person’s creation?

In trying to answer those questions, I realised I was still coming to terms with losing Jagraj Singh as a mentor, as a friend, as a leader, as a brother and as everything in between.

We probably weren’t as close as some people may think, having worked closely together for three years. I was too intimidated by him. Too in awe of him. He was too smart, too knowledgeable, too driven, too proactive. Being around him was often like, ‘Oh no, what’s he going to get me doing now? Sit-ups? Santhiya (Sikh scripture pronunciation)? Video editing?’.

I regret feeling like that. I wish I would have tried to spent more time with him, learnt more directly from him. Even after he was diagnosed, I wish I would have visited him more.

Khalsa being Khalsa, he was in chardi-kala (ever rising spirits) whenever I saw him after his diagnosis. That probably made it harder for someone like me to take in his loss when it actually came. I didn’t feel any real sadness until the day of his funeral. Then, I found it hard not to cry for near two days straight.

Yet, with the nature of panthic work, Everythings 13 were straight back in action just days after the funeral of our CEO. Me, back to working for the project he created, making decisions without him, moving forward with his vision.

So to then, stand before so many people and talk about his work, and then have people congratulate me for it…it felt empty.

Sure, we mention him in relation to our work, but he isn’t there to hear about how it is impacting people now. He isn’t there to see its impact now. And that made me feel a certain way about presenting our successes.

Again, just to reaffirm, to me, this isn’t about feeling unworthy. To me, this is about knowing your role and knowing how it fits into a team. I am an obsessive and passionate sports fan. Sport teaches one the importance of teamwork and structure.

The more you learn about it, the more you realise Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s revolution is too important a mission for it to be misrepresented. As such, Sikh community domains can be unforgiving places. Criticism can be curt, attitudes can be abrasive, etiquette can be non-existent.

To step forward and attempt to lead something from within this is one of the bravest things a person can do. By its nature, this demands immense seva and intimate connection with sangat. There are too many people attempting to push themselves into Sikh leadership roles without any of the above for me to take what Jagraj Singh did lightly, by placing himself in the gauntlet of Sikh leadership and building a team to do panthic work.

In my opinion, I personally feel involvement in panthic work is overwhelmingly beneficial for one’s mental health. There is a genuine family love that can be built within sangat from being around those who want nothing more than sarbat da bhala. Not to mention the hugs. The hugs! People within sangat will hug you like you’re their long-lost best friend.

Nevertheless, I recognise the feeling of responsibility of representing a panthic org is by no means easy to handle. It is a daunting prospect to be in any position of being questioned by sangat. Yet, it is a fair and needed position to be in when working both with and for the Panth. It’s democratic beyond the version of democracy currently sold to us.

Still, that pressure can crush some, while others are forced to create their own protective pseudo-sangat circles. Then there are the beautiful GurSikhs who just lead revolution quietly, in their own under-the-radar manner, only dealing with who they have to.

However, not all panthic work can be done under-the-radar. Trying to relay a message of GurMat (Guru’s way of thinking) to those who know nothing of Sikhi is a tricky business. This is what Everythings 13 does as an organisation.

Leading such an org means dealing with everyone; from those just out for an argument to those who don’t think you’re a match for their intellectual ability. As the hundreds of thousands who’ve seen Jagraj Singh deal with even the most rigid of perspectives will know, he did this with Khalsa nobility.

Jagraj Singh went through a lot – physically, mentally and spiritually – to create panthic institutions through Everythings 13, one of which I am lucky to be involved with and has me in a blessed position of working with sangat and mixing with GurSikhs on a daily basis. This is something I am eternally grateful for.

That’s why I was left with that empty feeling after the recent event; because when I see the success of what Jagraj Singh’s started with Everythings 13, when I feel the benefit of it, when I see its progress, I am still feeling the grief of him not being here to see it too.