Amarjit Singh Lalli (left, President of Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society) receives a $40,000 donation from Vik Bains (right, TD branch manager, Rutland) to launch a new mental health and addictions recovery initiative for the South Asian community of Kelowna. (Contributed)

Amarjit Singh Lalli (left, President of Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society) receives a $40,000 donation from Vik Bains (right, TD branch manager, Rutland) to launch a new mental health and addictions recovery initiative for the South Asian community of Kelowna. (Contributed)

Okanagan Sikh temple to launch mental health initiative with help from TD donation

The initiative is the first of its kind specifically for the South Asian community in Kelowna

A new mental health and addictions recovery program has been launched for the South Asian community in the Okanagan, thanks to a donation from the TD bank group.

On Jan. 25, a donation of $40,000 was made to the Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society to launch the initiative. The program will be available to people who identify as South Asian and are looking for help with mental health challenges or addictions. It is the first ever drop-in program specifically for the South Asian community in Kelowna.

“Our community is not immune to the societal issues that many British Columbians are facing, including the opioid crisis and mental health challenges,” said Amarjit Singh Lalli, President of the Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society. “We want South Asian people who may be struggling to be able to seek help and access available resources that are both language-specific and culturally safe.”

The launch comes after a recent Fraser Health study suggested that South Asians “may be more likely to die from an overdose than non-South Asian people.” The study presents that South Asian men report low rates with substance abuse treatment.

“There has certainly been a history of stigma around substance abuse, however, the conversation within the South Asian community is changing,” said Vik Bains, Branch Manager of TD Rutland. “Whether in our branch or out in the community, I am talking to people who are increasingly opening up about their own personal struggles or are expressing concern over loved ones.”

The donation has been put to use right away as the Okanagan Sikh Temple and Cultural Society is looking to hire experienced bilingual (English and Punjabi) counsellors to lead the drop-in sessions. Depending on COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, sessions will be held either in person or virtually.

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