October was Hindu Heritage Month.
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
Did you know that October was Hindu Heritage Month? I did not, at least until I was part of a panel presentation on hate and harmony at the annual American and Canadian Child and Adolescent meeting in Toronto. At the tail end of the meeting, I saw a full page, full color notice in the Toronto paper about “Light Up Toronto with Canada Diwali Fireworks” on October 20th.
Diwali is one of the many religious holidays of lights, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains around the world. It coincides with harvests and emphasizes new beginnings as well as the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
Hindu Heritage Month launched in 2021. Its goal was to showcase Hindu heritage globally via various educational processes. Some suggested values to emphasize are inclusiveness, knowledge, families, nonviolence, and charity.
Globally, Hinduism is the third largest religion with about 15% of the world’s population and over 1 billion adherents. In India and Nepal, it is the extensive majority. It is quite heterogeneous with many schools of thoughts and practices. It can be considered to be monotheistic, yet with aspects of polytheism.
In the United States, Hindus, mainly from India originally, are about 1% of the population and the fourth largest religion after Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. They are generally well-educated, of higher socioeconomic status, and often work in the technology or medical fields. Skin hues range widely. Whether they are always thought to be part of the Asian American collective communities is uncertain.
In the volume Anti-Semitism and Psychiatry, the chapter on “Anti-Semitism from a Hindu Psychiatric Perspective” made a convincing case that there never has been anti-Semitism among Hindus, perhaps the only long-lasting historical example of such tolerance, respect, and value of the Jewish people.1 Like Hindu Americans, Jewish Americans are sometimes considered to be a minority group in America, and sometimes not.
In all the 3 volumes of the trilogy on psychiatry and the 3 largest religions in the United States, the editors and chapter authors were concerned both about adverse intolerance and fears of Muslims and Jews, but also the positive mental health repercussions of religious support and community.1-3 We need a fourth volume on psychiatry and Hinduism and other so-called Eastern religions.
For clinicians, it is essential to obtain a sound history of the patient’s religions and spiritual beliefs as they influence wellbeing, attitude toward psychiatric care, and the therapeutic alliance. In society, inclusivity and unity requires knowledge of the important religious holidays and heritages. Take this column as a belated recognition of Hindu Heritage Month.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.
1. Moffic HS, Peteet JR, Hankir A, Seeman MV. Anti-Semitism and Psychiatry. Springer; 2020.
2. Moffic HS, Peteet JR, Hankir A, Awaad R. Islamophobia and Psychiatry. Springer; 2019.
3. Peteet J, Moffic HS, Hankir A, Koenig HG. Christianity and Psychiatry. Springer; 2021.