- 35 girls from disadvantaged backgrounds attended the socially distanced interactive session
- Topics in discussion included fear, anxiety, depression, suicide, relationship issues and domestic violence
- Participants were encouraged to discuss the problems they face and educated on mental health resources
- Poddar foundation conducts campaigns and programs to help empower women from disadvantaged and marginalized backgrounds.
October 23: Poddar Foundation, one of India’s largest organizations focusing working in the area of mental health, conducted a session on the importance of mental health awareness and wellbeing for adolescent girls.. The socially distanced interactive session was attended by 35 girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. It was the first community session conducted by the Poddar Foundation since the lockdown.
“Adolescent girls do not seek professional help for mental health problems for a variety of reasons. Confidentiality concerns, lack of knowledge about professional services, the backward notion that symptoms of distress reflect a temporary crisis brought on by age and lack of appropriate responses from their families, who still look at mental health problems through the lens of stigma on account of the religious and cultural conditioning. Considering the high rates of mental health disorders among adolescent girls and their unique vulnerabilities, we decided to kickstart our field work with this interactive session to get a sense of what they have been going through since the lockdown and come to an understanding of how better we can help them,” said Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Mental Health Expert and MD, Poddar Foundation.
The girls were encouraged to come forward and talk about the issues they face on a daily basis, the effect it has on their mental outlook and the psychological distress they face. Almost all of them said they didn’t know whom to turn to for help. Many of them were unaware of the magnitude of their problems and were not even sure whether they needed professional intervention. The session was designed to help them understand the importance of timely mental health intervention. “We learned a lot during our session. They asked us to talk about our problems and patiently answered all our questions. Many of us did not know that help was readily available for people like us. We now know where to turn to. We will surely tell our friends about it and encourage them to reach out as well” said Sandeep (Name Changed), a participant from Bhim Nagar.
“There is a paucity of mental health literacy in low- and middle-income countries, and India is no exception. We need more studies to plan interventions and improve recognition of mental health problems. It will encourage more people to seek help and prevent fallouts. Mental illnesses in India are largely attributable to socio-economic factors. Studies have shown that poverty has a direct impact on the mental health of adolescents. Young women from disadvantaged communities and backgrounds are particularly vulnerable due to adversities associated with physical abuse, poverty, lack of access to education, sex trafficking, and rigid restrictions on mobility. With a rise in the cases of domestic violence since the lockdown, this was the first demographic we decided to address when we resumed our field work. We wanted to give them access to mental health resources so that they feel comfortable coming forward and talking about their problems” added Dr. Prakriti.
The foundation has conducted mass awareness campaigns in collaboration with Maharashtra State Commission for Women, Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission and NGOs like Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and Strujana Charitable Trust to empower, educate and equip disadvantaged and marginalized women. At present, the foundation is working with over 60,000 people in the state of Maharashtra, and has created a teaching and training manual for social workers, anganwaadis, teachers, students, and medical officers.