Nurul Islam Laskar
A sound body with sound mental health ensures a strong and powerful personality. But, more than an individual’s own mental health, it is also important to help others develop balanced mental health and help them resolve any issues relating to mental well-being. This can be done by becoming an activist or a carer or a caregiver in the arena of mental health. Mental health activism is one field where educated youths can work to bring a smile to the faces of countless affected victims.
We have come a long way through the ages when those suffering from mental health problems were constantly ill-treated, persecuted, stigmatised, and placed in chains. The situation, though, has not changed drastically. We still have a long way to go and one way we can improve the situation is through activism. Activism does not have to be violent and dissenting; we can change the mental health scenario through either working with mental health professionals or highlighting ill practices through various platforms. If we check the activities of different activists or rights groups across the world, through online media, we can become aware and empowered to know how people used activism to constitute change.
To decide to embark on activism for mental health issues is a positive decision. But we must remember that one of the most critical aspects about activism is being active. We cannot just sit on the sidelines when promoting change, we have to actively push through such changes.
Many mental health activists tend to set up pressure groups, mental health awareness groups, research centres, health centres, and even non-governmental organisations. All mental health activists use such groups to not only create awareness, but also to cooperate and collaborate on changing the mental health situation for the better.
Past experience has proved that successful activism can lead to many reforms. Successful initiatives in relation to civil rights, women’s rights, and human rights have produced positive results. What was considered acceptable has, over time, become unacceptable. Reform can be strengthened by new laws or new regulations in order to protect those suffering from mental health issues. This does not mean activism always works, but its goal usually leads to changing norms. Many people around the world still stigmatise mental health sufferers, so a lot still needs to change.
White Swan Foundation, a non-profit Indian organisation, has launched a programme called ‘Mental Health Champions at the Workplace’ that is aimed at addressing issues relating to mental health. The objective of the programme is that the trained employees would start informal conversations about mental health at their workplace. A mental health champion is seen as someone who is invested in the mental health of the people in their spheres. They empathise with those facing mental health issues. These champions have the right knowledge and intent to drive informal conversations around the topic in order to catalyse safer and inclusive spaces.
Talking about mental health is the first step towards creating an inclusive culture within the organisation. Champions facilitate this process by helping employees acquire an understanding of mental health and becoming allies that shape the organisation’s culture and this is done through internal communication. Many experts feel that what India needs, besides more professionals in the mental health space, are volunteers who work in the area between structured therapy, and unstructured support.
(The writer is a motivational speaker and public relations consultant.)