A BRADFORD woman has been working hard over the last 16 years to support people from diverse backgrounds with their mental health.

Maryam Riaz, from the Little Horton area of the city, has always been passionate about counselling and therapy and has become the only female person of colour locally to open their own clinic and offer support to people from diverse backgrounds.

Through her work, she has helped tackle the stigma and taboo attached to mental illnesses in South Asian communities.

She said: “When I started there wasn’t anybody like me in the field.

“I was the only person that looks like me on my course and in my job and now we’re seeing a gradual change.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Maryam Riaz form Bradford is working to make mental health support more accessible for people from diverse communitiesMaryam Riaz form Bradford is working to make mental health support more accessible for people from diverse communities (Image: UGC)

“I set up this service a couple of years ago to make support for mental health more inclusive and accessible and over the years we’ve seen perspectives shift towards counselling and seeking support.”

Maryam’s clinic ‘Therapy For You’ is based on Peckover Street in Bradford’s Little Germany.

Currently, she works at Leeds Beckett University as a lecturer which has put great emphasis on diversifying its cohort of students through a range of scholarships.

She was awarded the Platinum Champion’s Award for her service to the NHS and her volunteering work.

She added: “I used to work in the hospital chaplaincy providing spiritual and pastoral care and my work was recognised for a Platinum Champion Award for making the NHS more inclusive.”

Maryam has noted a rise in the number of people who are seeking mental health support after the pandemic.

Through her structured sessions, she’s seen people grow in confidence and feel comfortable enough to talk about their struggles.

“Therapy is a privilege that not many people can access and with my clinic, I’ve seen people from across West Yorkshire and it’s great to see them come back.

“Representation really does matter and when people find someone they can relate to and understand their faith, culture and how mental health is contextualised in a different cultural context.”

Maryam chose to set her business up in Bradford because she felt the need to give back to the community that championed her.

“If I’m going to be a trailblazer, I want to be it for Bradford and give back to this community.”