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Jigyasa Tandon — A Young Mental Health Reformer- Redefining Mental Health Space in India

More from Jigyasa's Guide to Befriending Life

Mental Health Educationist, NIMHANS, Bangalore, Counselling Psychologist (Sensitive Groups), Teacher and Author, Echoes of a Rebellious Mind (Collection of Poetry with an aim to disseminate Mental health Lessons )

About Jigyasa Tandon

Jigyasa Tandon hails from a reputed lawyer family who chose not to follow the family-defined path but craft her own life in psychology and mental health education. She is a Trained Mental Health Educator from NIMHANS, Bangalore, and a Counselling Psychologist with expertise in dealing with on-filed, grass-root level, and sensitive groups. Her areas of expertise are media psychology, applications of psychological principles in the legal field for reformation and better management of judicial stakeholders, suicide prevention and management with mental health difficulties, she is currently designing a skill-based program for expanding Indian society’s capacity for dealing with mental health problems and suicide prevention under the name-

Peer for Prevention suiting the needs and holistic nature of Indian society. This would be a one-of-a-kind effort in India as we are currently adapting foreign elements of psychology which are leading to a divide in the society leaving the user confused. S/he then runs for the certificate and not knowledge. She feels the culture of social group/society plays a fore-ground role in understanding the needs, emotional regulation, well-being, thoughts, the behavior of an individual. Also, we exist in the dual reciprocal relationship than in isolation, thus it is important to feel belonged and connected to something in life

She has the diverse working experience to be a teacher to a counselor with Juvenile Justice Board -II, Feroza Kotla, Delhi Legal Aid Services Authority, Patiala House, Legal Aid, Delhi High Court, Saket Court (Women Cases), Sexual Protection Society, DAV Schools, top schools in Delhi.

She has been an active Resource Person for many colleges pan-India and taken many special sessions, workshops, online programs and is a youth mentor to many helping them transform lives. On an academic front, she has been part of Delhi University, Panjab University, Chandigarh, YMCA, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore (NIMHANS). She has presented papers and her vision of mental health reformation in India in conferences across India and published papers too. Some of her papers are in pipeline to be published.

At present she has finished her tenure with Ramjas School, New Delhi-110005 as PGT Psychology with a good result of 95% and Mental Health First Aid India, Chennai and is an MHFAider for Suicide Prevention and Workplace. She ran a successful campaign with them — My Piggybank of Hopes for World Suicide Prevention Month and Has contributed articles to the space. Besides this, she active mental health writer at platforms like Psychologs , Youth ki Awaaz, Times of India, Vigyaa.com. National Express, YourQuote, etc. and have been featured in various YouTube videos, news, and newspapers.

Through her organization, PSY-FI: For a Healthy Mind, she has curated and executed projects which have impacted over 10000 + people. She has made use of art, writing, theatre, Flash mobs, freeze Mobs, talk seminars, remedial education projects, media, etc. to communicate the importance of mental health in life. She has been invited as resource person Pan- India i.e. Delhi, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Bangalore, Mumbai, etc. Her lectures and therapeutic intervention have made a difference to society.

She further expanded the organization and initiated projects like JIGSAW COMMUNITY, PSYCHO-LAW-GY, CONTENTIFY, GRIEVANCE MEDIATION CELL FOR MENTAL HEALTH FIELD, COUNSEL ROOM, HAPPY EDUCATION PROJECT (remedial support classes for government school students till 5th std who show signs of psychological issues and illness). Her latest and more prominent projects introduced in 2019 and had been growing since then is –

  1. PEER FOR PREVENTION- Empowering Approach To Mental Health Management At A Layman Level- A Capacity Building Training At Varied Human Developmental Level And Human as a part of the Society Level.

2. MAN-O-POWER — VALUE ADDING COURSE On Mental Health Education and Intention to Volunteer As A Team Member In Mental Health While recognizing The Role Of Other Allied Fields With Mental Health Like Law, Literature, Etc.

3. AWAAZ — An Open Mic Forum — Where we create a safe space and allow people to carry the feeling of safety home. It was a platform for expressing art in any form- poetry, opinion-sharing, dance, talking of your work, contribution towards mental health, etc.

4. Unenveloped Humans: An Human Library Approach- Here people who have battled struggles and made a mark in society come and talk with each other to help each other as a community and not be just booked to be read.

5. Unpause Self- An initiative for colleges to generate awareness about oneself by sitting with oneself and doing activities that help them understand themselves better.

5. Project Mamta: A Partnership ( PSY-Fi: For a Healthy Mind ) with Legal Aid, Delhi High Court, Patiala House, Delhi and Tihar Jail (Jail №5 18–21 years male UTs and Convicts) for Counselling, Development of Life-skills and Socio-emotional growth of Individuals as Humans and not Labels dawned upon them. During this tenure, have worked with Mohd. Aamir Khan was framed as a terrorist at the age of 14 due to a lack of police responsibility and personal bias towards a particular religion being responsible for ‘terrorism and criminal activities.

Other recent Projects Include 2021:

1. Classically Unconditioned :

ü A series of interactions between individuals coming from similar and allied fields to come together and just talk and listen to thoughts and discuss:
Opportunities to explore
Widening Area of Interest
More than Clinical Work
Internships
coupled with self — enlightening activities and much more
It’ll be more than just slapping information and understanding where people are coming from than giving generalized discussions.

The intention has been simple to develop and promote mental health +ve community. Her research papers, articles, stories are delightful to read for people for understanding the complexities of human behavior. She believes in promoting raw talent and support Indian Initiatives for Betterment.

She has been at various leadership positions and won accolades for the same for her work of dedication and reformation has set the platform for change to smoothen the process. To name a few, she is President, Delhi Human Values Council, WICCI 2021–22. She has won Noam Chomsky Excellence Award in Psychology and Effective Community building for Reformatory Changes in Mental Health and Allied Fields by Redpond Educational and Psychological Research Centre, Madurai, India. She has received special acknowledgment on the Global Youth Education Platform organized by Akanksha Trust and Youth Opportunities. She was a principal member in organizing in India’s First and World’s Second Walking tour of a Mental Health Institute to deconstruct the idea of mental health treatment — Stories Against Stigma- organized by the Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS Bangalore. Moreover, she is the mastermind behind the initiative of bringing Spoken Word Poetry and Open Mic Culture in NIMHANS, Bangalore by the Department of Mental Health Education and has conducted several since then. She has closely worked on projects as a curator, mentor, and executor to projects with the Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS, Bangalore like Certificate in Mental Health Education, Tobacco Use, Suicide Prevention, Media, and Mental Health, Nursing training in Mental Health Education among others.

She has been received a special invite or worked with by Justice Gita Mittal Former Chief Justice of Jammu And Kashmir High Court, Chairperson of Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), Hon’ble (Mr.) Justice Manmohan, Delhi High Court, New Delhi, Tihar Jail ( Jail no.5), School of Sustainable Development, India, by Dr. Sanjeev (P) Sahni, Principal Director, Jindal Institute of Behavioural Sciences (JIBS); Director, Centre of Victimology and Psychological Studies, Shishir Sharma (Actor), Chandan Anand (Writer, Actor), Manisha Kelkar ( Marathi Actor, Anchor, and Formula 4 Racer), Ankur Dobriyal ( Senior Video Producer, Scoopwhoop), Sumit Tharran ( Former Cinematographer and Video Producer at 9X Media), Department of Mental Health Education, NIMHANS, Bangalore, Surat Global Shapers Community, Delhi University, Krupa Nidhi Group of Institutes among many others.

In past, she has been the recipient of NSS BEST STUDENT — 2013–14, Out Reach Community Campaign Head, NSS (Many of her projects have got newspaper recognition and speaks of societal difference), Meritorious Alumni Award, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee College for Women, Delhi University, Founder President, Spandhan, Psychology Association, Department of Psychology among the rest.

She can always be identified with a chai, laptop, phone (notes section) and indie music do something only she knows what. Or buying jewelry and Indian sarees and ethnic wear from Delhi/Bangalore Hubs. She has a wholesome desire to be recognized as Indian and serve India through Mental Health.

A special mention to my team, who have been a constant support.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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