Friday, September 28, 2007

'Abused' Asian women behind soaring toll of railway suicides

An article in The Daily Mail states that there has been a dramatic increase in suicides on railway lines - particularly on a railway line that runs through Southall. And as a woman's rights group suggests, these suicides are linked to a high prevalence of domestic violence inflicting Asian families:
Rail suicides are soaring because of a dramatic rise in Asian women killing themselves on just one stretch of track, a train company's internal report has revealed. An incredible one third of the total for England and Wales now happen on the line going through Southall, West London, which has a large Asian community.
The article goes on to discuss the death of Navjeet Sidhu who, after experiencing extreme turmoil and stress, jumped in front of a train with her two young children. This was disturbingly followed by the death of her mother, who also jumped in front of a train at the same spot less than a year later. As women's rights groups suggest, the root of these suicides lie in domestic violence and family problems:
Hannana Siddiqui, from women's group Southall Black Sisters, claimed abuse and "sensitive cultural issues" were at the root of the problem. She said: "The high instance of Asian women suicides is linked to abusive practices within Asian families. There is a correlation between these suicides and violence in Asian homes. Psychiatric research has shown there are rarely cases of mental disorders in these cases, suggesting they are the result of social circumstances. These women are often isolated and find it hard to escape."
Being a passionate public health advocate, I tend to wonder how these things can be prevented. There is a need to provide resources to this population. The problem is obviously both health-related as well as culturally-related and I am quite conscious of the fact that receiving treatment for mental health problems is not very common in this community. Also, I think there is a disparity in individuals being able to identify the need for psychological help. But something has got to change... hearing these stories should be troubling to us all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Traction Alopecia in Sikh Male Patients

The current edition of The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine has a piece on Traction Alopecia in Sikh Men. It's a short piece describing the impact to the hair shaft by continuously wearing a turban. Here's an excerpt:
Traction alopecia is a form of nonpermanent alopecia which is the result of physical damage to the hair shaft. The frontal scalp region is where the alopecia will usually occur [in Sikh men] given that it experiences the bulk of the trauma. Traction alopecia can also arise in the submandibular area because the majority of the followers of Sikhism will also practice a similar method of knotting their beard.

It's very interesting to me that this phenomenon, which I'm sure is known all too well by most turban-wearing Sikh men, is being discussed in a major medical journal. It seems clear to me that the prevalence of this in our community is quite high. But I wonder if this article speaks to the fact that more Sikh men are obtaining treatment for it? The article goes on to talk about treatment of this type of hair loss:
Treatment of traction alopecia in Sikh patients can be a difficult process. Religious laws forbid the cutting of hair and require the wearing of the turban. Therefore cutting the hair is not an option. Patients can be advised to allow their hair to be tied loosely and free of a turban for as long as possible during the day. At night they should refrain from wearing the turban and tie their hair in a loose ponytail without the knot. When wearing the turban, the hair should be tied loosely at the scalp to decrease the tension. Patients can be treated with topical steroids, however, unless the tension is relieved, these treatments will prove ineffective. Patients should also be advised that traction alopecia may lead to permanent alopecia, which is progressive if the traction is not removed.

This is what a google search for "Traction Alopecia Sikh" found. I must read more about it. It makes me wonder how many Sikh men are dealing with this (and to what severity) and more interesting, the likelihood that they seek out treatment for it...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sikhnet Online Film Festival

So.. I have been ardently watching the videos from the Sikhnet Online Film Festival and have continued to be impressed with the subjects touched upon by these filmmakers. There is a film about Pingalwara and Bhagat Puran Singh Ji who embodied the message of seva. Through his dedication of helping those less privileged he was able to build a place of comfort and hope. This film is about that work..