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South Asian People and Community

A multi-level, qualitative analysis of community participation: A focus on persons of South Asian origin with schizophrenia


The study

One arm of the study focused on people of South Asian origin. In general, we know very little about the recovery experiences of individuals with schizophrenia that identify as South Asian, and even less about their experience of community.


We worked with 7 people of South Asian origin with schizophrenia and 19 key supports and community members that come into regular contact with this population. Our efforts aimed at capturing a multi-level perspective of this specific minority group.



A rigorous grounded theory approach revealed five themes:

1. Cultivating an autonomous self within the collectivist family based culture

2. Cultural conceptualizations of self and mental illness

3. Developing individual ethnic identity and sense of belonging in a community context

4. Points of exclusion in the community

5. Points of inclusion in community

These five themes interlinked creating a complex dynamic between individuals, families, various communities' people belonged to and in turn experience of mental health. The multi-level approach to data collection provided insight into the many systems and structures that impact on this community. These experiences shaped identity, self-concept, perceptions of self as well as other racial/ethnic groups, and in turn the spaces, places and people interacted with. Spaces that provided acceptance and inclusion also facilitated the cultivation of an empowered sense of self.




Provider efforts to encourage community participation and recovery for persons of South Asian origin with schizophrenia should take into account the multiple and intersecting aspects of individual identity as well as those at a community level. A multi level approach informed by social capital theory could lead to the promotion of social inclusion and integration of persons with schizophrenia.



  1. To advance and tailor mental health service provision and psychological therapies to meet the complex needs of South Asian communities
  2. To educate and train non-mental health professionals and community members/leaders (e.g. faith leaders) on signs, symptoms and services related to mental health
  3. To tackle the inequalities that exist as a function of poverty, immigrant and newcomer status
  4. To mandate services to address the specific needs of mental health in South Asian communities, particularly in areas with a significant South Asian population

These implementation of these recommendations is dependent on the development of a coherent research and mental health strategy that is inclusive of South Asian communities.