About a year ago, I was sitting in my class, as usual, patiently attending to the requirements we had to complete this following semester, one of which turned out to be a four-month long internship, three days a week with direct contact with clients. Now if you are an aspiring mental health professional in this country, you know how difficult it can be to find an internship you can afford (yes, we pay for our own internships!). Then comes the problem of negotiating your scope of work at the internship, which you hope would be more than just getting glimpses of clients in the OPD.
So, I’m back in the classroom with all my classmates in a frenzy over finding an internship where they could be trained, keeping on top of coursework, attending classes, completing submissions all while managing their respective dissertations on the side. On the other hand, I see my professors struggle with trying to keep up with our grievances, finding us possible solutions, negotiating with their bosses, taking classes, publishing their own research all while supervising our dissertations. And all I can think to myself is, would it not be wonderful if all of us could just get some sessions of therapy to process the chaos around us?
And so began the Great Battle of Why-Mental-Health-is-Important. It took whole of eight months to convince the Department of Psychology at my institute to open up a ‘Free Mental Health Clinic’ for its own students and staff and owing to the kindness and patience of few professors we were finally able to lift it off the ground. It took me just a 1500 rupees to get everything I needed to get started. We already had psychological assessments that the department agreed to provide and supervision from professors who were willing to take out time from their schedule to get this started. All it took then was, 100 rupees for copies of informed consent for the client, 400 rupees for circulating advertisements of this facility, 350 rupees for the tissue box and 650 rupees to get some soothing paintings to brighten up the room.
Over a period of just four months we recorded 97 bookings and were able to service around 77 clients successfully. In the first five hours of releasing the booking link, we already had fifteen booked sessions. We provided psychometric assessments, psychotherapy and referrals as well as career assessments and guidance. We catered to a range of issues from depression and anxiety, self-harm and suicide to abusive relationships, loneliness and stress. Since then, we have had more requests with students willing to attend their sessions sometimes at the cost of their hectic schedules, college holidays, traffic, even their plans with their friends and family.
From these five months, I have learnt the power of therapy and more so; that these students are ready to go through the emotional experience and all they need is a service that listens to them. I also realised that it took very little to open up a space like this and I would like to urge all aspiring mental health professionals to start something like this in your college. Just remember, to have proper training and supervision since you are dealing with people coming to you for help in their most vulnerable times. Therefore, it is our responsibility to be qualified enough to take on the challenge that is mental health.
Now that I look back, this seems like a strange story, almost like a dream. But it proved to be immensely uplifting for me both as a student in an educational institute and as an aspiring mental healthcare provider. It also brought me closer to solving the mental health crisis in our country, making it more affordable and accessible. And so I would like to urge all young aspiring mental health professionals out there to try out a free mental health clinic in your school, college, place of work and see both your and the lives of people around you change for the better.
If you are somebody looking for a place that provides free mental health care you can also reach out to us here and book your free session at www.thoughtpudding.com.