“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.” -Shannon L. Alder
Research shows that if you sing melodiously to the plants in your garden, they will grow faster and healthier. Thus sometimes, emotions are stronger than biological needs, more so in the case of human. “Health is wealth”, but we only confine it to being physically fit. But the truth is that ‘well-being’ is a state of MIND, especially in a highly digitized and “connected” world. Through a blend of creativity and scope of requirement, Aakanksha established Neevam Foundation in 2018. It was started to address stress, anxiety and depression amongst youth in India. The organisation believes in training the young minds of age 7-21 years about the importance of mental health and breaking the stigma attached to it. The idea behind this brilliant initiative is to help kids:
- Become more emotionally stable.
- Openly articulate their feeling.
- Become aware of other’s feelings.
ABOUT THE INITIATIVE
The team has come up with a unique solution to inculcate mental health learning in the school curriculum that otherwise focuses on `IQ’ or ‘intelligence quotient’. Their flagship programme called ‘Minds At Play’ was launched in 2019 in Gejha village in Noida. It focuses on the development of ‘EQ’ or `Emotional Quotient’ through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness. It aims to spread awareness and provide treatment for stress, anxiety and depression. This is essential because your emotional capacity is the determinant of the majority of outcomes in your lifetime.
Luckily, many sections of society now have access to mental healthcare facilities. But even for those who can afford, there is a substantial wait time before one can access these facilities. The reason why Minds At Play has focused primarily on the low-income private schools as their idea is to reach the masses who do not have sufficient access, resources or awareness about this issue. This helps to bridge a significant socio-economic divide. The trained facilitators of this programme visit the partner schools every week over 4 months to conduct enriching mental health developmental sessions. They indulge the participants in a plethora of activities to improve their emotional regulation.
WHY MINDS AT PLAY?
Taking inspiration from her journey, mental health was always close to Aakanksha’s heart. She thoroughly researched about it and found the need for a community–based programme for children. Besides the 3 core team members, many volunteers participate in this programme regularly.
The organisation stands apart in this field as their inclusive approach includes both preventative care as well as treatment based programme. It is a wholesome mental health care tool kit which includes psychosocial, emotional and cognitive learning; a full-fledged mental health awareness programme that the schools can adopt. It also offers emotional wellbeing sessions for teachers and educators. All the sessions are conducted by trained and experienced psychologists who focus on enhancing the emotional vocabulary of the participants.
In their first year itself, they have successfully collaborated with 7 schools and positively impacted over 200 students. Results have shown significant improvement between their pre-programme and post-programme analysis. This gives them the zeal to move ahead.
When they had just begun, funding was a major challenge for them as programmes like this hardly exist. Being the first movers in the field, designing and monitoring a framework for such a unique idea was a challenge for them. Though, once they were in the field, convincing people was not a problem, as their idea and delivery are quite impressive. Plus, the schools were also receptive to the idea and realized the criticality of the programme for the students.
The biggest barrier currently faced by the team is being physically present to conduct the programme. The intervention activities are most effective in the physical and experiential form. At a time when mental health help is utmost needed, Minds At Play is ensuring its best to be available for the students and communities through online sessions, webinars and Whatsapp. They are reaching out to children through their parents, community leaders or via collaborations with organizations that can help provide electronic devices for the needful communities. Even during the pandemic, they have managed to conduct their programme online with 5 schools, which tells a lot about their sincerity and vision. Thus with the help of their professional network and collaborations, they’ve been successful in switching their entire operation to digital mode.
BEING THERE, ALWAYS
Leaving no stones unturned in winning over any situation, they have expanded their online interaction to a wider audience at the most needed time. Minds At Play has conducted a 3-week online workshop on ‘self-love and confidence’ for the teenagers. For the college students who were feeling low or anxious, they delivered a short mental health care first aid program.
THEY ARE INVINCIBLE
In July 2020, they have launched a community-based programme called “Aao Baat Kaarein” which is a combined preventative and treatment care programme. Under this programme, young volunteers will be trained into becoming community leaders who would deliver mental health awareness sessions in their communities. The volunteers will undergo an effective therapy session so that these youngsters can identify triggers of stress, anxiety and depression.
With one step at a time, they have already created a roar in the field. Their long term vision is to impact the lives of young people positively. They envision to create a healthy environment which will not only reduce the risk of mental health ailments in the upcoming generations but also provide a comfortable and accessible platform to seek timely help.
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close
Article by Shambhavi Kapoor, Team ulaunch.