Friday, 5 January 2018

Relevance of Mental Health education for adolescents

Mental Health is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going

After one and half year of working with adolescents from various communities and government school on gender, sexuality and reproductive health in New Delhi, we realized that it’s also very important and crucial to have conversations on Mental Health. Why? Because during adolescence, they are undergoing physical, psychological, emotional and social changes- there are lot of curiosity and questions around them along with the pressures of peers, parents and society for example- the constant expectation of excelling in the exams, having the perfect body, being popular in class, having many friends etc. 

So we decided to have a session on “Mental Health” with the adolescent boys of Government school in Dwarka as part of our ongoing intervention. The session began with a fun energizer gearing up the participants for the session followed by an interesting video on Mental Health orienting them about what is in store for them in the session ahead.

In the next activity, the participants were divided into 4 groups, where in two groups were invited to do mapping around “Mental Health” and the rest two were asked to do mapping around “What does ‘accha lagna’ means to them”. Few of the insights are as follows-

Mental Health-
“When I cry, I feel relieved”
“In distress, I feel angry”
“Fighting with someone”
“Making friends makes me happy”
“I like to spend time with my parents.”
“I like spending time with friends, watching T.V to feel happy.”    
“Having no friends makes me feel sad.”
“To able to share my worries with someone”
“To be able to share everything friends”
“To sleep well”
“To not feel worried about exams”
“Not think too much about various things”
“To sing”
“To stay happy”
“When I have conflicts with my friends; I feel sad and feel lonely”
“All situations of distress, tension or panic
“When I'm about to make a new friend; I feel very anxious”
“When I fail in an exam; I feel distressed worrying about being beaten”
“When people say bad things about me then I feel very angry”
“When I don't get something which I really wanted; I start hating that thing”
“When I get angry; I just sleep off”

Accha lagna-
“I really want to be happy as I have been sad”
“When I see my best friend; I feel good”
“When someone greets me; I feel happy”
“When I get good results after working hard”
“When our principal took us for local tour”
“When I'm able to share with someone; I feel happy”
“When I'm happy i feel like dancing!
“When someone says something good about me; I feel happy”
“When a girl talks to me; I feel happy”
“When I do a lot of fun when I'm happy”
“When I get good marks; I feel very happy”
When we get to go on school trips”
“When I win a match”
“When a girl talks to me”
“When I get 10-15 minutes extra to write during exams”
“When teacher praises me in front of 40 children in class”
“When I'm happy I listen to Punjabi songs”
“When parents don't scold even if I get low marks”
“I feel very happy when I'm able to take my revenge”

It was interesting for me to be sitting with the participants and getting to know what mental health means to adolescents, what makes them happy, sad, angry, and stressed and what do they feel and act when they go through various emotions! It was crucial also because there is also lot of confusion between Mental Health and Mental illness, where they are two very different things.

Once all the groups shared their mind maps in the larger circle, we engaged on what well-being, mental health, mental illness means and how important is to have mental well-being?

The next part of the session involved screening of the video where Sehar Raza shares her journey of experiencing depression at the age of 16 and fighting it out through the support of therapeutic intervention and parental support.

Since it was also crucial to know what situations are stressful for the participants and what coping mechanism they generally employ to deal with them- we gave them structured sheets with the different columns and invited them to fill it individually. Some of the common situations involved- getting low marks in subjects like Maths, science or English; being scolded by parents or teachers in front of others; when somebody makes fun of them or doesn’t listen to them, exam anxiety, fighting with friends.

Some of their coping mechanism involved- speaking to father, or best friends, listening to music, playing, leaving the place, not talking to anyone, hitting punching back, just shutting down etc.
It was interesting session where we spoke about nitty gritty of mental health, various stressful situations and overcoming mechanism, it was time to talk about myths and taboos around mental health- lot of terms came out which we hear in our day to day life, seemed more like ignorance and judgments namely- being mad, stupid, lost mind, aggressive etc.

Now, comes the fun part of the session, where in we shared a video on how can we deal with various day to day pressures and stress and do the same there itself which resulted in the oceans of laughter, the whole room had vibrant and amazing positive energy. All we could see were the big smiles on each face! What an amazing and happiness filled session it was :-)

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