About 4,000 Class 11 and 12 students of 250 schools completed a 6-day summer internship with Fortis School Mental Health Programme in early June. About 140 schools out of these were from Delhi-NCR, and the others from metropolitan cities.
This innovative programme was initiated by famous psychiatrist Dr Samir Parikh, who heads Fortis Healthcare’s Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences. The objective of the internship is to expose students to psychology, to build their curiosity, and give them an opportunity reshape conversations around mental health.
Speaking about the programme, Dr Samir Parikh said, “Mental health has always been stigmatized, with those suffering being at the receiving end of ridicule and discrimination. We thought it was time to build an alternative, more positive narrative around mental health, and that is how the idea of the summer internship was born.”
A key aspect of the week-long internship was a social media project. Here students were encouraged to write poetry, create innovative posters and works of art and try their hand at vlogging. According to Dr Parikh, “We realized that given the amount of time that children spent on social media, we could channelise it to be meaningful and be positive, so that the generations to come do not experience the kind of stigma that we did. And the response we got from students has been truly heartwarming.”
As the students interacted with a multidisciplinary team of experts, they learnt about the role of psychology in healthcare and the technique of psychological interviewing. They took part in activities designed to enhance self-awareness.
Another objective was to encourage students to become mental health professionals. There is a 800% shortage of mental health experts in India today. Sessions on the applied areas of psychology were taken to encourage students to learn about the scope of various upcoming super specialties in the field.
The need is acute, as one in 4-5 persons in the world are affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Even if they do not take up this career option, students who did the internship are expected to be more open to conversations around mental health, which continue to remain taboo in society today.
Fortis National Mental Health Programme is one of the few multi-city multi-centric comprehensive mental health programmes in the world, with a presence in 24 centres across Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Mohali, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jaipur and Udaipur. With a key focus on preventive and positive mental health, the department runs the Fortis School Mental Health Program, which is completely free of cost to schools. The Fortis Stress Helpline (8376804102) is a 24 X 7 helpline run by a multilingual team of mental health professionals in order to support individuals experiencing emotional distress.’