We have a dual goal: firstly, to make higher education spaces supportive of youth mental well-being, especially for youth of marginalized backgrounds. Secondly, we want to advocate for a collaborative, multi-stakeholder strategy to address youth mental health in India.
Our vision is that youth mental well-being will lead to improved youth participation and leadership in social, economic, political, democratic processes - bringing us closer to all Sustainable Development Goals.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among India's youth, according to a 2018 Lancet report. In 2016, the suicide death rate for women in India was double that of the world. These two facts highlight the mental health crisis among youth in India - especially for young women and other groups who are socio-politically vulnerable. Such vulnerability is a major factor of mental disorders - as agreed by the WOrld Health Organization.Youth spend a lot of time outside their homes when they are in college. India's higher education spaces are ill-equipped to deal with the individual, social and political pressures faced by students. After 15 years of work with youth, we have observed that there is very little mental health literacy in communities or even in government hospitals. In a pilot survey during our ‘Mental Health Fair’ in a young women’s college in 2018, 90% of the participants expressed need for mental health awareness and support in colleges. Teachers similarly shared how there is no awareness in colleges and their willingness to support the same.
Our solution entails two advocacy campaigns. The first one will be targeted to teachers and management in higher education institutions: we will secure their support for making colleges safe in terms of mental health. They will ensure that youth from vulnerable backgrounds to understand mental health, care for it, and ask for help when they need it. The second advocacy campaign will be directed towards the government as well as other educational institutions and stakeholders. For this campaign, youth experiences will be documented in the form of stories, together with quantitative data and a film. These stories will be used to advocate for a comprehensive strategy to improve youth mental well-being.