The unspoken UK Punjabi alcohol problem

Image copyright Vik Kainth

For several British Punjabis, alcohol abuse is an open up secret. Alcohol consumption is glamorised throughout different aspects of Punjabi culture plus shame stops many seeking the assistance that they need.

Harjinder read her daughter Jaspreet a single last bedtime story, then kissed her goodnight. She was tired after a long day, and drifted off next to her daughter. The girl toddler son was already asleep within the next room.

The next thing the girl remembers is her husband shouting. He was drunk and mad that when he returned from the bar she wasn’t in their marital mattress. In a rage, he flipped the particular child’s bed throwing his spouse and daughter to the floor. Harjinder hit the radiator hard along with Jaspreet landing on top of her.

Incidents like this had been a regular feature of Jaspreet plus her brother Hardeep’s childhood. “It was heartbreaking, ” Jaspreet states.

So when Harjinder found Hardeep, now aged sixteen, drinking whisky in his room right after an argument with his alcoholic dad, the girl was terrified that he was subsequent in his father’s footsteps.

There are around 430, 500 Sikhs in the UK, making up a significant percentage of the British Punjabi population. Harjinder herself is Sikh and among her community her experience isn’t really unique.

A new study, commissioned by the BBC to investigate behaviour to alcohol among British Sikhs, found that – although alcohol consumption is forbidden in Sikhism — 27% of British Sikhs statement having someone in their family with the alcohol problem. It’s a problem that is rarely talked about openly in the community.


A lot more than 1, 000 British Sikhs taken care of immediately the survey – find out more applying this interactive tool:

Harjinder moved in with the girl husband’s family after their organized marriage – both common methods within Punjabi and wider Southern Asian communities. She was stunned to find out how much her newly obtained family’s social life centred across the men’s excessive drinking.

The family, along with young children, would certainly go to a friend’s house and would certainly stay there until two or three o’clock in the morning waiting for the men, and he or she started to feel increasingly isolated.

Rav Sekhon, the British Punjabi psychotherapist who works together with ethnic minority communities, says: “There is really strong pride and honor for the family name. They don’t desire anyone to perceive them as getting something wrong with them or any kind of weakness. ”

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Sanjay Bhandari is definitely from a Hindu Punjabi family, somebody at a multinational city firm working in london and a recovering alcoholic. After their father died when he has been 15, he says he started drinking and not really stopped.

By his mid 30s, this individual realised that he hadn’t been just one day without a drink for over 7 years, and he’d been determined by alcohol for much longer. He says their Punjabi background played a big component in discouraging him from acknowledging he had a problem.

Sanjay, who has been sober for sixteen years, says he didn’t believe that he could admit he had a some weakness, nor that he was feeling unhappy and self-medicating with alcohol. This individual didn’t look to the Punjabi neighborhood for help, but eventually discovered Alcoholics Anonymous.

“It would never have occurred to me to the community for help with drinking. It had been almost the last place I would possess gone. ”

Picture copyright Vik Kainth

When the first immigrants, who have been mostly men, came to the UK through Punjab in the 1950s, 60s and seventies, many found themselves struggling in order to assimilate being in a new country, usually working long hours to send money house to their families.

The stresses of moving to some new culture, the associated vocabulary barriers and the racism they confronted meant many of these men turned to alcoholic beverages to cope. This reliance on alcoholic beverages has had generational repercussions.

Jennifer Shergill, an alcohol specialist from the West Midlands, works with Sikh men and women to manage and overcome dependancy. She points to the combination of Uk binge drinking and the culture associated with drinking in Punjab, which with each other create a perfect storm for some from the people accessing support services.

For Harjinder, the girl husband’s heavy drinking had deteriorating consequences. Although he was becoming more and more violent towards her, she had been still reluctant to seek help.

She says their behaviour was normalised by their family, leaving her feeling nearly brainwashed by them into hopelessly accepting the situation. It wasn’t till she went to her GP along with injuries from the abuse that the lady realised that what she has been experiencing wasn’t normal.

Eventually Harjinder called the law enforcement and she and her children relocated out of the family home to stay with the girl parents. Even then her spouse didn’t acknowledge the impact that will his drinking was having.

“I think [my husband] knew deep lower that what he was carrying out was wrong but it was nearly as if his male pride didn’t want to admit it. ”

Image copyright Vik Kainth

Jennifer Shergill thinks one of the barriers for people looking for help is the fear of someone discovering. “There is stigma associated with persistent alcohol misuse and they don’t desire their reputation to be tainted… when there is a dependent drinker in the family members what might people think of us? ”

The Shanti Task , where Jennifer works, is simply one scheme working to tackle this particular stigma and to provide culturally suitable services for the Punjabi community within Birmingham.

Others incorporate a volunteer-led Sikh Helpline , the Derby Recuperation Network , BAC-IN , and Very first Step Foundation, which are all performing their part to help tackle addiction to alcohol in a culturally sensitive way.

The Crown Criminal prosecution Service decided not to prosecute Harjinder’s spouse due to a lack of evidence and, 6 weeks later, Harjinder and her kids returned to the home she distributed to her husband.

Her husband’s family had frequented her to assure her he had ceased drinking and things would be various – so feeling the stress from both his family and her very own, she and her children came back home.

Yet Harjinder struggled with depression. The girl husband hadn’t stopped drinking. It had been at this point that – prompted with a community psychiatric nurse – the lady started talking to a counsellor. “I felt quite desperate at times, inch she says, “but the guidance really helped, I felt which i could carry on. ”

Harjinder is still living with her hubby after more than 20 years of relationship, but their lives are very separate right now. Her daughter, now in the girl 20s, constantly urges her in order to leave him.

“I’ve thought about it a lot. Part of me thinks, why bother with this age? But then another part of me personally thinks: well, if I’ve obtained another 20 years of this, that’s not great. I think it could happen. ”

Harjinder and the girl family members’ names have been transformed.

If you have been affected by any of the issues talked about in this article, please see the resources outlined on BBC Action Line .

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