About 14% of India’s general population of 1.3 billion are suffering from mental health disorders – including depression, stress-related disorders, anxiety etc. Among them, 10% need immediate intervention while 1.9% of the population suffers from severe mental disorders.
Inspite of the grave situation, it has only worsened, thanks to stigma and discrimination faced by people seeking professional guidance, coupled with a lack of trained doctors (India has only 3,500 trained psychiatrists).
In June 2015, Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone founded an NGO, the Live Love Laugh Foundation that aimed to address the urgent need for better mental health awareness and the reduction of the societal stigma on the topic.
Deepika Padukone who was diagnosed with depression during the peak of her career has since then, spoken openly about her own personal struggles with the hope that it will encourage people to come out and openly talk about mental health/depression.
The Live Love Laugh Foundation launched their flagship programme last year called, You Are Not Alone, to educate adolescents and teachers on stress, anxiety, and depression while aiming to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health. This programme on mental health for adolescents is being conducted free of charge in schools around the country, and has covered 34,023 students and 6,480 teachers across 276 schools in six states (Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Delhi) over the last year.
This programme was launched in March 2016 at Sophia’s High School in Bengaluru, Ms Padukone’s alma mater. Since then, the programme has been conducted in 276 schools, including more than 100 non-English medium schools, and delivered in English, Hindi, Tamil and Gujarati.
A city-wise breakup where the programme has been conducted is as follows: 19 schools in Bengaluru (3808 students, 1310 teachers),10 schools in Mumbai (2766 students, 119 teachers), 121 in Delhi (12908 students, 3974 teachers), 15 schools in Coimbatore (4058 students, 714 teachers), 65 schools in Baroda (7506 students, 281 teachers), 45 schools in Ahmedabad (2577 students, 72 teachers) and 1 school in Dehradun (400 students, 10 teachers)
Under the programme, separate sessions are conducted for students and teachers by the Foundation’s own staff or professionals from partner organizations. The session for students involves a discussion on depression that aims at: a) building students’ understanding of how such disorders could affect them or their peers; b) facilitating effective self-help, and;c) increasing their sensitivity towards supporting others around them who may be affected, including friends and family members.
The session for teachers and school authorities is geared towards making participants aware of the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, so they are better able to support or seek the requisite professional help for vulnerable students. A booklet that addresses various aspects of mental health was also handed out to all participants and available in the local language at the sessions.
Commenting on the roll-out of You Are Not Alone, Deepika Padukone, Founder – The Live Love Laugh Foundation said, “We started this programme knowing that schools can be the first line of defense for emotional and mental health of children. With the massive incidence of mental health issues among the youth in our country, You Are Not Alone as well as other interventions for this age group are the need of the hour to help students and their teachers gain a better understanding of issues related to stress, anxiety and depression. TLLLF feels privileged to have been able to make a difference to these students by building awareness and showing them there is support available.”
Anna Chandy, Chairperson – Board of Trustees, The Live Love Laugh Foundation said, “Post the sessions, several students have been forthcoming in their feedback on how they have been helped to understand the issues they are up against. Teachers have also begun to identify how mental health can impact students as well as recognize possible symptoms amongst the students. Further, school managements have been very positive and we have had cases where a principal at one of the schools has requested our help to integrate a focus on mental health in the curriculum.”
“Typically, five per cent of participants tend to want immediate help after listening to our counsellors at the sessions,” she said.
For more information and resources, visit the TLLLF website (www.thelivelovelaughfoundation.org). Students can make use of the extensive resources available there as well as engage with counselors from their partner organizations listed on the site.
Over the next 12 months, TLLLF expects to expand the You Are Not Alone programme to include parents as well as students in reform homes. The programme will also focus on localization of content and the roll-out of the programme to smaller towns and cities with the help of partners and volunteers.
Schools interested in hosting a programme for their students can write to the TLLLF at firstname.lastname@example.org