Bangalore Rural Educational and Development Society (BREADS)

Mental health is a Universal Human Right

World Mental Health Day annually observed on 10 October, was an occasion for the Drug Rehabilitation Education and Mentoring (DREAM) teams across Kerala, to emphasise the importance of mental health and its role in the livesof individuals, particularly students. Good mental health is vital because it allows us to cope with challenges, thrive, and also connect with others.

In 2023, marking 75 years of mental health advocacy by the World Federation for Mental Health, the World Health Organisation emphasises Mental health as a universal human right’. This means that everyone must have access to good mental health services as well as education, income generation, housing opportunities and social support, to live independently and be included in their communities. It therefore means that mental health should be recognised and treated as an integral part of overall good health, without stigmatising it. 

There is a great need for positive action, as mental health conditions affect one in seven adolescents globally, with depression becoming a leading cause of adolescent illness and disability. In Kerala, the numbers of youth affected by mental conditions are high, made worse after the COVID pandemic, with depression affecting 60% of college students in 2021 (according to the Psychological Resource Centre, Vazhuthacaud). Kerala ranks third in the country for suicides at 27.2% per the State Crime Records Bureau. This situation makes the population extremely vulnerable to all kinds of substance abuse and addictions. The BREADS’ DREAM programme in Kerala promotes affirmative action through awareness and counselling, while also providing rehabilitative services for children and youth. This year, to mark World Mental Health Day (WMHD), various sensitisation and awareness programmes were conducted.

In Wayanad, the DREAM team, together with the Psychology Department of Don Bosco College Sultan Bathery, conducted an interactive and activity-based awareness session on the significance of mental health for 130 students of Government High School, Kalloor.

In Thiruvananthapuram, 250 students of CHMM College of Arts and Science, Varkala, were addressed about Substance Use: Risks to Mental Health and Co-occurring Mental Disorders, to understand the importance of avoiding drugs and other forms of addiction, to maintain good mental health. The DREAM staff collaborated with the college NSS unit to conduct this interactive session with the students.

DREAM Kannur collaborated with the Department of Social Work, Don Bosco College, Angadikadavu, to communicate to the students, the significance of mental health as a universal human right. A poster-making competition was also conducted as part of the celebration.

Sahrdaya College of Advanced Studies (SCAS) and Dream Thrissur collaborated to commemorate WMHD with the launch of a wellness club. The talks and discussions at the event successfully raised awareness about mental health and self-care, marking a positive step toward addressing mental health concerns in the college community.

As individuals, we could also contribute towards making mental health a universal human right, by promoting awareness and advocating for everyone’s rights, in terms of access to services, and the creation of inclusive communities that promote mental health and dignity for all.

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