- The National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), reported mental morbidity of 7.5% between the ages of 18 – 29 years.
- World Health Organization (WHO) report released in 2017 estimated that more than 56 million individuals in the country face depressive disorders currently.
These figures look disappointing? Don’t they? Yes, they do! Depleting mental health has been one of the most worrisome concerns for the past few years. Mounting suicide rates among students and an increase in the cases of depression has become an ugly leitmotif of our lives. This is why St Mira’s College in Pune has started with its one-of-a-kind initiative to start a ‘mental wellbeing cell’ in the college.
“Approximately one in five youth aged 13–18 live with mental health conditions and approximately 75 percent of people with mental health issues develop them prior to the age of 24,” says Prof. Jaya Rajgopalan, faculty head of Psychology, St. Mira’s College, Pune. “Being a student is stressful, but trying to juggle college work and other responsibilities while experiencing mental illness can make it even harder,” she added.
What’s the reason for starting this program?
Emotional health is an important part of overall health. It affects how we think, feel and act.
“Many students get worried when they first recognize a mental health issue within themselves, as they might not be able to figure out how it started. Many students also feel embarrassed about having a mental health concern, which makes them turn inward and become isolated rather than seek help,” explained Rajgopalan. Factors such as significant life changes, politics, family, academic pressure, relationship issues, and money can all contribute to changes in mental health.
What does this ‘Mental Wellbeing’ cell do?
St. Mira’s College through its “Mental Wellbeing ” program strongly believes in destigmatizing mental health concerns by providing safe spaces for students to talk. There are three major arms to our mental wellbeing program: Promotion, Prevention, and Intervention.
“We reach out to every student of the college through awareness sessions on what anxiety, depression, and other problems look like and provide them with easy tips on how they can take care of themselves in the face of stress,” said Prof Rajgopalan. The services provided by the cell are:
- Individual counseling sessions with experts help in the early identification of students with emerging signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties. This enables timely, effective and appropriate treatment.
- This is a full-time program with a faculty available on campus at every point of the day. This also helps in breaking the stigma around going to a counselor.
- Corridor talks, small conversations in the canteen, etc. all make this program more student-centric and normalize the idea of mental wellbeing.
- Peer support is encouraged where students are active participants in organizing sessions and encouraged to support and create a supportive environment for others who are struggling with mental health concerns.
- Many a time, students who need professional mental health support may not access it due to heavy charges and consultation fees. This program is extremely affordable and provides them with various options for mental health services. Students are not left with awareness; help is provided at all levels.
This idea is to de-stigmatize mental health issues so that the gravity of the situation can be well understood and acted upon!