In partnership with AISC
Partnership between BALM and AISC – CareerX
The Banyan Academy of Leadership and Mental Health and The Banyan partnered with the American International School Chennai (AISC) for their Career X internship. The partnership was meant to orient the students through a short module, to impart a better understanding on themes and narratives around mental health in India. AISC conducts Career X internship for young adults to provide requisite exposure to the students about a wide array of careers in varied industries and sectors. This gives a platform to high school students to explore careers of their interest, and gain useful insights while networking/connecting with the experts in these sectors; which could enable them to yield opportunities in the future as well.
Overview of internship
The collaboration involved a 5-day training internship with 4 students which was designed to ensure participation and group interaction. The emphasis in the internship was to bring out individual interests of the students, and enable them to build on their existing knowledge by discussion and research. The faculty at BALM and the Banyan introduced them to the grassroots work of The Banyan, and the overall state of mental health in the country. In addition, a few team members from The Banyan were invited for a session with the students to give them insights into the ground realities of the mental health landscape especially with respect to the work of The Banyan.
Approach for the internship
The sessions began with an orientation of BALM and the Banyan, and how the two organizations contribute in the mental health landscape of the country. The students were then asked to outline certain themes and ideas that they held regarding mental health, and Dr. Lakshmi Sankaran, head of department, School of Applied Psychology, BALM, managed to talk about these notions in details. The sessions were designed to not just define mental health but understand the notions and perceptions around the theme. Several ideas like the relevance of language, the depiction of mental illness in pop culture, and the lack of access to mental health services came up in the discussions. These discussions combined with the knowledge on the work being done in the sphere encouraged students to find their individual topics of interest in mental health. In the course of the internship, interactive sessions based on graphic media were held, where the journey of Amali and Jacklin was narrated to the participants; to spread more awareness about mental illness and the path to recovery through Home Again (an initiative of The Banyan). Towards the end of the internship, each student was required to choose a theme and build a presentation on the same. At the end of the internship, the students presented their individual projects which were in the form of articles and Powerpoint presentations as well.
Conclusion & feedback from students
At the end of the session, the students gave feedback on their experience during the course of the internship with BALM and The Banyan. Most of the students found their interaction with The Banyan team to be quite insightful and eye-opening. Other students highlighted how they feel that awareness and de-stigmatization is essential for improved access to mental health facilities, and strongly believe that they could contribute effectively in this. The short internship proved to fill gaps in the knowledge and understanding of mental health for these young adults. The internship was equally fulfilling for the faculty at BALM and the members of The Banyan who were able to interact with young adults about mental health and access to these services.
I gained a holistic experience at the BALM through in-depth exposure of mental health facilities growing in India. Various stories, lectures, and discussions about BALM clients and residents gave me a clearer picture of the issues that people with mental conditions suffer through. What perhaps stuck with me the most was a discussion I had with three clients of BALM who help in various different fields, and how COVID affected all that.
I learned the importance of Mental Health awareness through the videos that were presented during the meetings. It showed the stories of people who are suffering from poor Mental Health or have families suffering from poor Mental Health. It showed me that only a small percentage of people actually understand what people go through, and this is excluding the people who have suffered from Mental Illnesses.
My understanding of mental health has really evolved following my experience with The Banyan. Speaking to clients of The Banyan, listening to the struggles and the discrimination they have had to go through really conveyed the lack of mental health awareness in India. From this, the thing that struck me the most was that I should be actively involved in disseminating information about mental health within my community. I need to help target the issues within my community before trying to solve them on a wider scale. This understanding was amplified when researching for my project as I found out a lot about the stigma around mental health in India. Overall, this experience was really informative and enriching.
Something that struck me the most was probably listening to the stories of people who benefited from the banyan. It helped me gain perspective and understand the problems that people with mental illnesses face. As I did more research for my project I had a better understanding of why mental health is often overlooked. In addition, I learned about the importance of self-care and prioritizing mental health.