Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Hanif - Interview 30

Age at interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 23

Brief outline: Hanif, 49, describes himself as Indian and has lived in the UK for 25 years. Hanif experienced cannabis induced psychosis and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder aged 23. Hanif works in mental health, campaigning to reduce stigma.

Background: Policy advisor in voluntary sector, married with 2 adult children and 1 younger child. Ethnic background/nationality: Indian (born in India); in UK for 25 years.

Audio & video

Hanif, 49, describes himself as Indian and has lived in the UK for 25 years. Hanif was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Hanif works in mental health promotion, campaigning to reduce the stigma around mental health problems.

When Hanif first became unwell, he and his family didn't know what was happening. Hanif says he was speaking rapidly, had lots of energy, was having lots of creative ideas, and would walk into the road believing he could stop traffic. People thought he was possessed by a jinn, and his father consulted the local imam who recommended that Hanif see a doctor. The doctor prescribed medication, which Hanif threw away because he didn't think he had an illness. Someone suggested that that Hanif needed psychological help, and Hanif was referred to a psychiatrist who prescribed Lithium. Hanif says he's glad he was forced to see a psychiatrist and given medication because it helped him because he was putting himself and others at risk. Hanif says people thought he was crazy and no one came to visit or offer well wishes and prayers. 

Hanif says that his first episode was a cannabis induced psychosis, and although he says recent research supports that, he wonders whether it was the right diagnosis. Hanif says that although he no longer smokes marijuana, he still experiences manic phases. Hanif wonders whether environmental factors, genetic factors and being denied opportunities could act as a trigger for mental health problems. 

In Hanif's more recent manic phases, he has lots of - sometimes unrealistic - ideas, and can complete lots of work in a very short time, but he says he is not putting himself at risk like he did the first time. Hanif says that he has learned to cope with his manic phases without medication and can recognise them and make himself slow down. Hanif says it is important to have a good balanced lifestyle, with a balanced diet, and rest. Hanif also find that taking time out, meditating and praying is calming and helps him to find balance. Hanif says prayer alone cannot cure mental health problems, but that the combination of “dua aur dawa” (prayers and medicine) could be useful.

Hanif says his illness has made him a better person. He says that he was motivated by his own experiences to work in mental health, where having experience as a service user is a positive thing. Hanif hopes that by sharing his experiences other people will find hope and inspiration. Hanif's message to others is don't give up, keep trying services until you get what you need because support is available, get information and go to support groups because you can share your experiences, and they can give you strength and motivation. Hanif believes that acknowledging that you have a mental health problem and wanting to get better is the key to recovery. Hanif thinks professionals should produce good quality, culturally sensitive information, promote positive aspects of mental health and encourage service users to speak out.


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