International mental health expert and advocate and one of Time 100’s most influential individuals, Dr. Vikram Patel, launched an art exhibition and series of illustrated books about mental health and depression by young artist and mental health advocate, Ishita Mehra at a large discussion event in New Delhi today. Dr. Patel emphasised the importance of self-expression and art in helping break down mental health stigma, saying, “Even though mental health difficulties are common in young people and often hidden from view due to the stigma attached to these problems, using the arts can be a more effective way to engage young people and bring mental health out of the shadows,” and highlighted how important and significant it is that young people are joining this movement in such an inspiring way.
Left to Right: Vikram Patel, Ishita Mehra, Ishita Chaudhry, Shekhar Saxena
The event was organised by Indian mental health NGO, Sangath, along with the American Center and the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University, and also featured youth health expert, Ishita Chaudhry who founded The YP Foundation, a youth-led and run non-profit organization.
Sangath – Young Artist’s Exhibition on Depression
During the discussion, all three speakers spoke candidly about their own mental health and challenges experiences and emphasized the need for more accessible mental healthcare services for young people in India.
Talking about the inspiration for the exhibit and the zines, 23 year old Ishita Mehra said, “Many of these pieces were created last year when I was in the middle of months of breakdowns, depression, anxiety and self-harm. There is nothing charming about grief and anger. Yet, when I look back, what came out of it, was beautiful. I became, me. Living with chronic depression for five years made me feel strongly about the issue of young people’s mental health. I hope to use my art and creative expression to create stories from lived experiences that have the power to connect with people and help them understand their journey as well.”
Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (MSD), WHO, Geneva delivered the closing remarks for the discussion.
This event was part of a series “In Our Own Words”, by It’s Ok To Talk, a unique youth initiative by Sangath that engages adolescents and youth with issues of mental health through digital interventions and community based activities. The program runs a website www.itsoktotalk.in that offers young people across India a dedicated space to talk about their mental health and illness.
About It’s Ok To Talk
It’s Ok To Talk (www.itsoktotalk.in) is a public engagement campaign of the PRIDE Project, Sangath. An adolescent and youth-focused online and offline initiative, It’s Ok To Talk aims to increase awareness of mental health issues so that more young people are able to engage in a dialogue on mental health, and seek and get help. The campaign works through partnerships with individuals and organizations that bring complementary expertise on community engagement, arts and social media in particular, to organize online and offline community engagement activities.
Sangath, established in 1996 (www.sangath.in); is now one of India’s leading community based health research NGOs whose work has been cited as having led to “innovative research of relevance to public health in developing countries” and as one of the leading examples of academic psychiatry in the global context. Sangath was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation International Prize for Creative & Effective Institutions in 2008. Starting out 20 years ago as Goa’s first multidisciplinary child development clinic, Sangath has now conducting work across India with a view to developing packages of care for community delivery for a range of mental health conditions. It has been the state nodal agency for the Government of India’s national health program, the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Mental Retardation, Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Disabilities.