CW: Depression, Suicide/Suicidal ideations & actions
Popular Punjabi singer G. Sidhu released a new music video last week on YouTube that prompted much dialogue and discussion on social media. The song, named “Apni Jaan (Suicide),” is Sidhu’s fourth music video off his second studio album, Amreeke Aala.
The song and music video attempt to tackle serious and heavy topics, including depression, suicide and mental health. The music video stars Gurpreet Sarin, who some may know from his stint on American Idol (2002), alongside Kiran Kanwar, who plays his partner.
Gurpreet’s performance is very powerful, and the director, Jabar Jung, doesn't shy away from trying to capture the raw emotions of someone going through a difficult time.
This is a very important topic to address as mental health is highly stigmatized in the South Asian community and it is necessary to break barriers and create awareness.
There have been many studies conducted that have “increasingly demonstrated that South Asian (SA) immigrants are experiencing high rates of mental health disorders, which oftentimes go unaddressed.”
“Like many immigrant groups, SAs are susceptible to psychological distress due to migration, subsequent pressures to acculturate, and other social determinants that have a significant impact on functioning and quality of life.”
In the video, Gurpreet is a South Asian turbaned man who is struggling with his mental health and contemplating suicide.
Gurpreet appears to be functioning as a “normal” adult in public, but when he is alone, he is shown hysterically crying as he carries a long white bed sheet across his house. He comes close to dying by suicide (by asphyxiation) when his wife walks in, and he breaks down sobbing and hugging her.
Prior to the video, many were not aware that G. Sidhu is also known as Dr. Gursimran Singh Sidhu, and is a board certified psychiatrist, which was part of his motivation behind the song.
The song and the music video wrap up on a hopeful note, as Sidhu plays the role of Gurpreet’s therapist who is helping him navigate his mental health.
Sidhu also comes on to share his message through a PSA about mental health at the end of the video. He urges the Punjabi community to collectively combat the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
He says in Punjabi, “whenever we have a physical ailment, we don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance, however I don’t know why we hesitate to ask for help when it comes to depression or any psychological pain.”
He ends his PSA with a direct request to those who may be suffering from depression or contemplating suicide to reach out to any of the resources available to them, such as family friends, or doctors.
He assures them that the hardest part is taking the first step, and explains that technology can get them the help they need without leaving their home, like in the music video.
This is an important factor for those who may feel ashamed waiting in a doctor’s office, or to combat the stigma that might be holding them back from asking for help.
The COVID-19 pandemic has globally had a negative impact on mental health, and the South Asian community is no exception. In fact, they might be suffering more than others.
According to the 2016 Census of Population, of the five largest population groups designated as visible minorities in Canada (i.e., South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino and Arab), South Asian participants had worse mental health outcomes.
“They were more likely than participants belonging to other visible minority groups to report fair or poor self-rated mental health, and somewhat or much worse mental health since physical distancing began.”
Other studies talk about the importance of reliability and language when it comes to seeking assistance with one’s mental health. There has always been a call for culturally sensitive counselling and resources.
Songs like “Apni Jaan'' work to break barriers and bring the mental health conversation into the mainstream in an attempt to normalize it, so that many feel more comfortable coming forward about their experiences.
There have been countless studies conducted on the impact of mainstream media on our perception of ourselves and our surroundings.
It is now a known fact that mass media heavily influences and impacts people’s mental health.
For decades, mass media made mental health out to be a stigmatized topic, or a point of “weakness,” particularly for men.
Thankfully, the conversation is now slowly shifting into a more positive direction, which is absolutely necessary in today’s world.
It is undoubtedly impactful when mental health struggles are shown and discussed in mainstream Punjabi media by a Sikh turbaned man.
Representation is important and can make people feel understood and seen, while simultaneously acting as a call for action for the Punjabi community in terms of raising awareness around mental health, especially for men who may fear speaking out due to societal pressures.
G. Sidhu has received a lot of praise and positive feedback for his song, music video and initiative. He has been actively retweeting and referring to mental health resources available for the South Asian community via his Twitter.
He tweeted on September 30th: “So many mental health providers reached out to us. We are trying to get a list of providers/organizations providing mental health services to South Asian communities across the world (whether free of cost or even if you charge). Email us at SouthAsianMentalHealth@gmail.com”, along with a flyer:
It is important to prioritize mental health irrespective of culture and socioeconomic status. G. Sidhu seems to be trying his best to do his part for the community, and people are rightfully recognizing him for his effort.
Check out the full video here.
About the author: Gurshabad’s educational background in Biology and Psychology is inspired by her lifelong pursuit to seek and decipher the human connection. She loves McDonald’s fries, long walks on the beach, and telling people how to correctly pronounce her name. She regularly forces her friends to sit in her car & record a podcast aptly named Sitting In The Car. You can find her but more importantly her dog, @gurshabadkang on all platforms.