Creating Mental Health Awareness one village at a time
June 14th was a tragic day in the Bollywood film industry. Superstar actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his apartment in Mumbai. Why? The actor had been battling depression for the past six months and was under severe counseling.
Time and again death of a celebrity sparks conversation about mental health and depression which eventually fizzles out. Which brings me to the next topic- what happens to children who face depression at a very early age or communities in villages who face mental health issues? That's when The Minds Foundation comes into place. According to the website, "Globally, there is 1 suicide occurring every 40 seconds. Youth are also essential to the dissemination of information and change in the perceptions of mental health. Therefore, we strive to focus on delivering mental health education to youth in schools. This program is tailored to cover topics such as autism, OCD, depression, anxiety, self-image, suicide, cyber-bullying, substance & alcohol use, eating disorders, and internet addiction." Their School Mental Health Education is not just targeted at kids but also has important takeaways for parents and teachers.
Their second biggest focus is on Community Mental Health Education - with a special focus on rural sectors. "We believe that education surrounding mental health is a critical component that needs to be addressed in order to diminish the stigma surrounding it. In order to address this component, we organize evidence-based mental health education workshops in partnership with local stakeholders. Communities are provided with a list of resources as well as being left with visual aids and educational materials" states their website.
What does one do when you feel depressed but have no place to go to for treatment? The Minds Foundation identifies this large treatment gap and offers task-shifting. The organization trains community members to be able to handle basic risk assessment, counseling skills, and triage. The community mental health workers (CMHWs) work primarily with rural and semi-urban communities. "The workers use their familiarity with the community and leverage their social networks so that we may efficiently reach more people. Furthermore, they support patients through their recovery and continue to educate the community about mental health by hosting workshops and peer, support groups," the website states.
These measures don't just help create awareness but also increase access to care and mobilizes the community to take charge and improve the health of their own members. The Minds Foundation doesn't stop with just that - they also have customized workshops for teams in corporate offices. Office environments can be stressful and peer competition can get to people- that's when these workshops come to use.
Not enough is spoken about mental health and its consequences in the global arena. Rural communities have no material to identify the issue or means to deal with it. "Through film, poetry, art, media partnerships, PSAs, and grassroots movements—we can create true change and bring a voice to those often left in the dark,' shares the website.
The Minds Foundation works extensively in Gujarat - having started in Vadodara, they eventually expanded to Bhavnagar, Chhota Udepur, Panchmahals, and Narmada as well. In 2018, they moved to Mumbai. They also work closely with The Thought Company and The DeSousa Foundation. The organization regularly runs themed support groups, school education programs, and are expanding their research initiatives along with Sion Hospital. They are also expanding community-level services to Dharavi. The organization's strategy is different in New York and Los Angeles. At LA, they have an Active Leadership Council that supports the work with The Minds Foundation. They have events such as intimate salon dinners, mental health targeted panels and events, ambassador training programs, and corporate partnerships for continued wellness.
Research is a big part of The Minds Foundation. For strategies to fall in place, the NGO indulges in in-depth research. Their data collection team extensively works with diverse communities in India. They also monitor and evaluate the progress of the plan s they have evaluated in order to improve and customize their programs based on the actual needs of the people. The organization believes that "In order to advance any sort of health priority, research must be done to understand the root cause of problems, the consequences of these problems, and how to effectively reduce them."
Who runs the organization?
Raghu Kiran Appasani, a psychiatrist, neuroscientist, mental health advocate, launched the organization to bridge the gap between western and eastern practices to create a wholesome society. He says, "I founded MINDS with a passion to bring the human right of proper mental health resources back into the hands of those in the most vulnerable regions of the world.”
If you wish to get involved, there are several ways to do it - donate, join their Leadership Development Program exclusively designed for students, or their Fellowship Program for students and professionals who want to delve into the healthcare realm. visit: www.mindsfoundation.org
Photos courtesy oF MindsFoundation, istockphoto