Changemaking for Mental Health
Anagha was elected an Ashoka Young Changemaker from India in May 2022. This story was written through a consultative process during their selection to our global community.
“I have grown up seeing my uncle suffer from schizophrenia and struggling to seek help. The stigma associated with the condition as well as the lack of authentic resources prevented him from getting professional support for over a decade. In addition, I have seen close friends struggle with anxiety and have faced burnouts myself,” she remarked. These poignant experiences shaped her understanding of the mental health landscape and helped her identify the cracks that needed fixing.
She began building her team at a program she was enrolled in at the time- the 1000 Girls 1000 Futures mentorship program of the New York Academy of Science. “I spoke to my fellow mentees about my uncle’s struggle with schizophrenia and realised that each of them had similar stories to share. That’s when the 10 of us in the program decided to come together and create an e-magazine for mental health awareness”, she explained. The first initiative they undertook was the launch of an e-magazine for mental health awareness.
They have evolved into a robust team of 30+ youngsters aged between 15-22, who work to tackle the lack of awareness, inclusion, and accessibility through neatly compartmentalized spheres of action. Through contests, they tackle the lack of awareness aspect in the mental health space. One such contest titled, ‘It’s All in the Mind’ involved young people researching a mental health condition and delivering a creative 60-90 second speech explaining it to a layman audience. ‘Synapse’, was another such challenge, wherein they got together 100+ youngsters in teams of 2-4 members to create feasible solutions to challenges in mental health. Their ideas were then evaluated by a panel of psychologists and social entrepreneurs. They also work to create more awareness through social media campaigns involving youngsters, educators, parents, psychologists and digital creators. In the week-long ‘Ataraxia’ campaign for anxiety, they held live sessions with psychologists, shared works of art that help heal anxiety, collaborated with bloggers to put out research backed content and held focus group discussions about anxiety.
When it comes to inclusion, they prioritize the voice of individuals from underrepresented communities in their blogs and social media posts. They also host podcasts wherein they converse with individuals from diverse backgrounds to explore how they deal with mental health challenges and what others can learn from their lived experiences.
To make the MH space more accessible, they collaborate with a psychologist every month to offer free mental health counselling sessions to youngsters who cannot afford it otherwise. Additionally, they conduct workshops in schools and youth organizations, and free webinars on a wide range of topics ranging from imposter syndrome to mental health during menstruation. “We are also collaborating with the Malala Fund newsletter ‘Assembly’ to bring out a mental health toolkit to act as a resource pack for girls and women across the world,” remarked Anagha.
Their efforts have yielded rewarding results. They’ve managed to impact over 5000 young people across the world, wherein 100 young people from underprivileged communities were able to access mental health support through their platform. They also trained 20+ young people in creating meaningful content in the mental health space. Their blogs have a monthly readership of over 500.
In the next few years, Anagha hopes to impact the mental health journeys of 1 million young people across the world. She also wants to expand Yours Mindfully’s Listening Circle, a community meant to serve as a safe space for young people, to up to 10,000 members. Moreover, she hopes to partner with local organizations to bring mental health resources to schools in underprivileged communities.
“Young people today are anxious about their futures and the future of our world. They often feel a crippling sense of powerlessness when faced with the magnitude of social issues,” remarked Anagha, reflecting on the state of the world and starting an initiative in such times. “As a young person, the magnitude of systemic issues overwhelmed me. However, when I took the first step towards building a youth-led community to tackle mental health, I realized that power comes from taking action,” she concluded. She wants to empower young people by creating the resources they might need to create meaningful change. She has lots of ideas to achieve this, from creating, “a weekly newsletter to share ideas about change-making, what I have learned along the way, interesting insights, networking tips” to internship/volunteer opportunities for the same.
This story was written by Prachi Vats.