Editor’s Note: This article is a part of #YoungWarrior, a pan-India movement led by the young people of India and an initiative by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MoYAS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), YuWaah, UNICEF India and partners across the Public & Private sectors, UN bodies and CSOs. Partaking in this movement, young people have taken centre-stage during the COVID-19 pandemic to lead the country from the front, through positive tools such civic action, mental health, skilling and community welfare. Gearing towards the upcoming International Youth Day on 12th August, 2021, join us in recognizing and celebrating the inspiring stories of these young warriors and share your story on how you’ve been a shining young warrior in these times too!
How does one get the youth of the country to open up about drug use and abuse when they know that doing so will get them stigmatized?
Krunal Shah, a 25-year-old BCom graduate from Ahmedabad, did so by taking a youth-friendly approach.
“I worked with the National Narcotics Bureau for a campaign on drug abuse in universities and colleges. We participated in their orientation sessions and rather than talking about the legal repercussions of drug abuse as a scare tactic, we discussed with them clearly why they should not indulge in drugs.
We set up a Healthy Campus committee in every college as a part of the campaign and asked them to organize healthy events like marathons, quizzes and critical thinking workshops. This got them to talk about drug abuse a bit more openly,” says Kunal.
Krunal Shah has been working in the social sector for 7 years now. In his 7 years of work, he has accumulated the experience and accomplishments of a lifetime.
From suicide prevention and women empowerment to farming communities and drug abuse – Krunal has worked in diverse areas pertinent to social work, which has also added to his knowledge. “I was an introverted person till 10th grade, but I watched my father work as an office-bearer in our community. He used to run around organizing events and his work inspired me. From 11th grade, I started being more proactive and began speaking publicly. I was elected the Head Boy of my school, and that catapulted me into this sort of life,” Kunal shares.
Having done a lot by himself at such a young age, Krunal is very vocal about the role the youth would play in shaping the future of the country in all aspects.
“But the youth cannot bring about tangible change alone. Government agencies would have to come forward and support us. For organizing events and workshops, we need a ton of permissions, which only the administration can provide. The youth and the administration will have to work in tandem to alter the status quo,” Kunal says.
Krunal has leveraged his skill set in building interpersonal relationships and working with multilateral agencies like UNICEF. From UNICEF, he found his way towards YuWaah.
“I’d been volunteering with UNICEF for a long time, and when the Young People Action Team was being formed, I was told that I’d be nominated. After rounds of interviews, I found out that I’d been selected. The program seemed interesting since the scope wasn’t limited to Gujarat only. I got to know the ground reality in cities like Chennai to Ranchi to Kolkata, and had the opportunity to work on campaigns focussed on issues endemic to an area,” he says.
Having a nuanced comprehension of a problem is key, believes Krunal.
That’s why he thinks that post-pandemic mental health work should not focus on blanket policies or frameworks; rather, mental health professionals and advocates must attain a deeper understanding of how different people have suffered in their own ways because of the pandemic.
“While some adult might be reeling from the loss of a young one, you cannot take the same approach you’re taking with that person and apply it to a young child who is feeling blue since he hasn’t been able to go to school and meet their friends. Similarly, things differ geographically too. Everyone is fighting their own battles, and the need of the hour is to understand these battles a little more personally,” Kunal explains.
Krunal was awarded the Youth Icon of India by the Ministry of Home Affairs for his work in the field of substance abuse.
But his real laurels, perhaps, are the lives he’s changed.
“I’ve helped over 100 people beat suicide; worked in the most backward villages in India; and reached almost 8 lakh youth with the substance abuse campaign,” Kunal says.
His plan is to keep working with YuWaah since it provides a platform to the youth for amplifying their ideas and thoughts.
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