Bengaluru: A recent National Mental Health survey, rolled out by Nimhans, reported that 1 in 20 people suffer from depression. Despite these big numbers, the "low" feeling is most often misunderstood and passed off as just a phase. Despite an increase in the number of counselling centres, mental health clinics at hospitals and psychiatrists, the stigma attached to depression stops many from reaching out for help. The city-based not-for-profit organisation, The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), has been working relentlessly to help ward off the stigma and to make more people aware of the disorder. Set up in 2015 as a charitable trust, it has been championing the cause of mental health and focuses on depression in particular.
“We do not provide any psychiatric help or counselling services to the depressed population. Our goal is to create awareness and sensitise the public, teachers and families to remove the stigma associated with depression. We want to target schoolchildren and the adolescent population to make an impact. Sensitising teachers is crucial as picking up the behavioural changes associated with depression is extremely important,” said Ms Anna Chandy, Chairperson, Board of Trustees, TLLLF.
Just over a year since its inception, the Foundation's “You Are Not Alone” programme has already covered 34,023 students and 6,480 teachers across 276 schools in six states –Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Delhi. “We are not looking at just English medium schools and have reached out to over 100 non-English medium schools. We want to help as many schools and students, irrespective of their medium of instruction,” she said.
In Bengaluru, 19 schools, 3,808 students and 1,310 teachers have been sensitised. “Bengaluru is a little better off than other cities as people here are more aware in picking up the signs. But that is not enough, considering the numbers," she said. The Foundation has also launched a mental health awareness programme for general physicians (GPs).
“Official statistics state that there are some 3,500-4,000 psychiatrists in the country, which is very low. The World Health Organisation recommends that GPs need to be sensitised about picking up the key symptoms or signals, as they are the first point of contact for anyone who is not well. They need to be trained," she asserted.
The programme aims to train and advise some 5,000 GPs across the country in a year. They will be advised on a range of issues related to depression and its incidence, screening and treatment. “We have partnered with the Indian Medical Association and the Indian Psychiatric Association to train GPs," she said.
On the future of the foundation, she said, “Currently, we want to focus on bringing down the number of students and adolescents suffering from depression. Once we feel that we have created enough awareness and we are satisfied with our endeavour, we will focus on research work. We are also doing some sample surveys which would be completed in a year." The foundation is now being funded by volunteers who believe in the cause.
With the massive incidence of mental health issues among the youth in our country, You Are Not Alone as well as other interventions for this age group are the need of the hour to help students and their teachers gain a better understanding of issues related to stress, anxiety and depression— Deepika Padukone, Founder and Brand ambassador of The Live Love Laugh Foundation
Partnership with government
Having battled depression at an early stage in her career, actor Deepika Padukone, who is the face of TLLLF, has been working on creating awareness, destigmatising depression and encouraging those afflicted with mental health issues to seek help.
As a part of the initiative, the foundation joined hands with the Karnataka government on the World Health Day (April 7, 2017).
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