Psychology students of Delhi University colleges have come together to help fellow students fight mental stress. Realising the need for mental health professionals in colleges, these students plan to help their classmates who are stressed out, through a drive called Initiative for Mental Health Awareness India: A Youth Initiative (IMHAI).
The department of psychology, Gargi College, and Expressions India, a school- based outreach programme for promotion of life skills, values education, school health and well-being, have launched IMHAI. The idea of the initiative is to spread awareness among the masses and to fight the stigma attached to mental illness. Student members hope they will be able to initiate a dialogue and discussion on mental health policy.
“Talking about problems helps one feel better. We all need friends who can listen to our problems and suggest solutions. As a crusader, I will encourage stressed students to talk to me,” says Varnika Rastogi, a first-year student at Gargi College.
“Youth in a phase of transition from school to college are in the mode of adjusting to an environment where there is much more freedom than the structured environment of school. Their bodies undergo strong physiological changes which have a direct impact on their psychological health too. They definitely need the help and guidance of a mental health expert,” says Dr Jitendra Nagpal, senior psychiatrist and incharge, Institute of Life Skills and Mental Health Promotion, Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi and programme director, Expressions India. “The government should consider the presence of a trained mental health expert in every college as the challenges these youth face are immense. It is of great importance to consider having a counseling cell/centre at every college.”
As a part of the initiative, crusaders (a group of psychology students), across Delhi University colleges, will create awareness of mental illness at their own colleges. They plan to have a fixed room in their college where students can come to consult them. Some plan to set up empathy boxes on campus and encourage students to write notes with problems anonymously. These will then be discussed in open house sessions. Some also plan to screen films on themes like broken relationships and conduct a general discussion among students on dealing with relationship issues. The crusaders will talk to students on mental health illness, and assess their needs for expert advice and share their recommendations and feedback with experts in the youth parliaments on April 12.
“Our youth faces problems due to relationships, academic work pressure, career prospects, body image issues and so on. All these things can lead to depression, anxiety, mood disorders and in extreme cases suicidal tendencies,” says Dr Shashi Tyagi, principal, Gargi College. “We want to take the voice of the youth to policymakers through a youth parliament. Our ultimate aim is that the national level policies should be tailored according to the pressing needs of the youth. We are looking at a future where the educational institutes and the millions of students of this country are supported by a robust and easily available network of mental health services.”
Students, too, stressed on the need for professional counsellors in colleges. As Arunima Poricha, a third-year student at Gargi College, says, “I could not connect well with my batchmates at college during my second year. That led to severe depression. Though my parents and teachers have been very supportive throughout, I wanted to talk to someone apart from them to get an objective view on my behaviour.”