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,
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
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
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
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
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)