Psychological issues in South Asian Immigrants by Dr. Khalid Sohail and art exhibition       

by Nina Ashraf Asmi


A two-part program, organized by the members of National Health Forum, took place on September 16th, 2012 at Farmington Hills Community Library, Michigan.

The first part compromised of Nina Asmi’s painting exhibition- an award-winning artist from Michigan. In the second part, Dr. Khalid Sohail- an author, writer, and humanist- addressed South Asian immigrants’ mental health issues.

The role of art in almost any form, particularly visual art, is crucial in bringing the social change in a society. It challenges the injustice, questions false beliefs, and encourages expression of creative imagination.
Award winning artist, Nina Ashraf Asmi, originally from Karachi, Pakistan is now a MI based artist. Her impressive expression of visual art is well recognized in the community. The 25 pieces of artwork on display included a large variety of mediums-- drawings, watercolors, acrylics and oils - showing the artist's skill in different media and styles.
Particularly striking were Nina's portraits done from live models in the style of old masters.
She uses the age-old medium of conte crayons in contemporary fashion to create expressive portraits from life. As an art critic pointed out, “her portraits are highly articulate.”
Her art shows that she is not merely interested in painting pretty pictures but in scratching the surface to reveal the essence.
She regularly participates in juried shows in the US. Her painting and photography has won her awards in Pakistan and the US.

Because of the worldwide political restlessness, economic instability and wars, since at least past three decades, USA has become a country of immigrants. These growing immigrants’ families from diverse cultures, go through pre and post immigration experiences which put them at risk of mental health problems. It is therefore important to address the need of psychological issues of immigrants in such communities.

According to National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), “one in four American adults, approximately 57.7 million American-experiences a mental health disorder in any given year”. Research indicates that 71 percent of Southeast Asians meet the criteria for a major affective disorder, which include depression. Other data shows that 40 percent of Southeast Asians refugees have depression and 35 percent have Anxiety. Same cultural group is at a risk for Posttraumatic stress disorder associated with their experiences before and after immigration to the U.S (http://www.nami.org/).

Despite of prevalence of mental illnesses in South Asian communities, there are barriers associated in seeking professional help. Research established that there are stigmatized cultural beliefs and poorer attitude towards psychological counseling than Caucasians.

The purpose of organizing educational presentation of Dr. Khalid Sohail was to not only bring awareness about the psychological issues but also to discuss the barriers in help seeking behavior of South Asian population in US. In his presentation Dr. Khalid Sohail discussed all stages of immigration ranging from leaving homeland to integration phase in host country. He also talked about the stress related to social isolation, keeping mental illnesses as secret, language barriers, and lack of awareness of social and medical systems and living in conflicting culture. As a creative psychotherapist he introduced his Green zone therapy, a type of psychotherapy to treat psychological issues. An hour long session of Question and Answers was followed after his presentation.

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Sohail, a well recognized psychiatrist, poet, and writer has authored many books in these areas. His immense love for humanity and peace reflects in his creative work of writing and documentaries he has produced over the years. Introduction of “Green zone Therapy” is his philosophical approach of psychology and a great gift for people suffering from mental illness and emotional problems. After gaining years of experience in psychiatry that includes Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Ontario hospitals he has established his Creative Psychotherapy Clinic in Whitby, since 1995.

 As a writer who shares both western and eastern cultures he believes that

“When immigrant writers live in two cultures and two languages, it opens their inner third eye and they create unique literature.”

List of his books and work can be checked out on the following web site.


Three hours long this thought provoking event was very well appreciated by the audience who expressed the need of such educational programs for awareness and enlightenment of South Asian immigrant families. This event was organized by the team work of Shazia Raza, Tasneem Taj, Nina Ashraf Asmi and Gohar Taj. MC of this program was Gohar Taj.

Light refreshment was also served.


Report by Gohar Taj (Michgan) 

Send questions or comments to Dr. Khalid Sohail