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Manas Celebrating the United Nations International Youth Day 2014

This year like every year we observed the International Youth Day on the 12th of August, a date in the year allocated to the youth across the glove. This brilliant initiative was first incepted in the year 2000 by United Nations in an attempt to offer a platform to government and other agencies to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. Each year this day is celebrated in the light of a new theme, exclusive to that particular year. This year United Nations took up a theme which was very dear to Manas foundation, the theme being ‘Mental Health Matters’.

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Since youth mental health is of primary concern to us, we did our bit at the forum offered to us by United Nations by participating in the two- day long celebration of International Youth Day this year. The first day which preceded the International Youth Day saw a zestful football match which was attended by the Manas team who relentlessly cheered the young players who played admirably well and won the match. Such a well thought of initiative was taken to spread awareness about Youth and Mental Health.

The second day which was the International Youth Day saw the unravelling of many events.  The day started with an insightful joint statement building activity wherein the young gathering of 300 school children and some college persons were asked to collectively come up with statements on “Youth and Mental Health”. This saw the active participation of each young member, and a glimpse of their discussion revealed how insightful they were. Some of the remarkable statements that we heard were:

“ We need to unite the nation to reduce the stigma by employing empathy and engagement”

“why choose the comfort of societal opinion over the discomfort of consciousness”

“combating  mental health stereotypes through individual actions”

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Such perceptive statements generated collectively by a gathering of 300 youth made us very hopeful of the scope of mental health in our nation.

This was followed by an enjoyable quiz round wherein the youth were quizzed about mental health in terms of the number of psychiatrists we have presently to how the percentage of people who are stigmatized because of having some mental problem etc. And to our pleasant surprise the young representatives of India were quite awareness of the prevailing mental health scenario and were right 8 out of 10 times.

Other than the statement building exercise and quiz which saw active membership of each young member present in the auditorium, we also the depiction of mental health scenario in India via a street play on “Youth and Mental Health Issues”. The depiction was beautiful and compelled one to think about those suffering from some mental problems in our nation, especially among the youth themselves.

This brought the celebrations to a halt for lunch break where we were treated with delicious delicacies of our country. The second half of the day opened  with a speech offered by Dr.Monica Kumar, the Founding trustee of Manas foundation who engaged the youth in perspective building on Youth and Mental Health through her revelations about the mental health scenario in India.

She zealously talked about the need to realize how mental health services are incorrectly thought to imply the presence of some form of ailment, some kind of deficiency which renders a person weak and thus the act of seeking help as an admission of being weak and something shameful. She also pointed out how mental health is erroneously thought to be synonymous with mental illness, when the truth is the former is a necessity for everyone while the latter is an unfortunate consequence resulting from not having achieved the former. She also talked about the special predicament the youth presents who shirk away from seeking help when needed, due to a fear of social exclusion. The other issues brought in the limelight by Monica Ma’am in her speech  were:

·         The need for creating school programs to eradicate the problem of bullying which serves as a precursor to mental health issues and using the same programs to psycho educate the youth about mental health. Employing more youth workers in schools should also be considered

·         Making the most of other forums to create awareness and offer help. This could be achieved by attempting to correct the portrayal of mental health in media which is highly influential and one also through the use of internet which has a global reach and is quick.

·         She also spoke of a dire need for an increase in the mental health services available which should be made available at a reasonable cost so it is affordable.  Also information about mental health services should be readily available.

·         The need for Indian tests based on Indian norms which tap on the diversity of our nation was also spoken of.

·         A need to imbibe a sense of shared responsibility among the various stakeholders like family, friends, mental health professionals and community at a large.

·         Lastly she highlighted the need to understand mental health services as a process which cant be thought of as a one step crises intervention. It is an ongoing process whose course cant be decided before hand and nor can it be reduced to a one time venture.

 The speech was very well received by the audience and the esteemed guests who graced the event, namely- Mr Rajeev Gupta –Secretary, Youth Affairs, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs and Sports,  Ms Lise Grande- UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative and Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal- Honorable Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreurship, Youth Affairs and Sports.

The audience erupted into a loud applause when Monica ma’am spoke about the need to replace mental health services, with a Primary health care system.

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In the second half of the day, another powerful medium was chosen to raise concern about mental health, the screening of two movies. One movie showcased the work of UNVs working with children with disabilities in Manipur.  The other talked about depression. The eventful day was drawn to a close with a Panel discussion on Youth and Mental Health in India which was led by the likes of esteemed panelists like Dr Vikram Patel- Professor of International Mental Health and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science, Dr Jitender Nagpal- Sr.Consultant Psychiatrist & Incharge Institute of Child Development & Adolescent Wellbeing Moolchand Medcity, Ms Mamta Vaish-Representative of Sanjivini and Dr Rajesh Sagar-Associate Professor, AIIMS.

With this the International Youth Day came to an end, having stirred a need to think about mental health among the young minds of the nation , instilling in them the responsibility to take the nation forward towards a stigma free and more accepting society.


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Manas Celebrating the United Nations International Youth Day 2014
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