On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, Mental Health Foundation (India) in association with the Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS organised India’s first Mental Health Festival. With the tagline, “Art has the power to liberate your soul”, the daylong event saw an array of creative activities and art forms revolving around stress, emotional well being, trauma, and mental disorders.

The festival started with lighting of the lamp ceremony by Prof. R Guleria, Director of The All India Institutes of Medical Sciences. Then Dr. Nand Kumar, Organising Chairperson, and Shri Anil Aggarwal, Chairman of Ramjas College, addressed the audience and congratulated the organizers for the noble initiative.

The first event of the day was a vibrant dance performance by Four Steps India, a psycho-educational and therapeutic center. Dancing to the tunes of “Taare Zameen Par”, the special kids enthralled the audience and spread the message of ‘Disability is not an Inability’.

This was followed by a thought-provoking act performed by Zaahir, the dramatics society of Mental Health Foundation (India). The play spread a strong message of following your passion despite the societal expectations by charting the journey of a girl Saumya, who grew out of self-harm and achieved self-acceptance.

Later, an informative debate moderate by Dr. Saurabh Singh discussed the pros and cons of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. Doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences talked about the Act from a patient as well as policy perspective. They also discussed the decriminalization of suicide and how over 50 million Indians who live with some form of mental illness suffer due to lack of awareness among the masses.

After the debate, the much-awaited dance completion took place. After clearing the preliminary rounds, two teams contested for the win. Advaita – the dance society of Keshav Mahavidyalaya tapped to the beats of peppy Bollywood hits, while the second team consisting of two dancers Ayushi and Vani gave a beautiful Bharatnatyam performance. The competition was judged by Mr. Prashant Sisodia, Entertainment Editor at NDTV.

At noon, the iconic Bharatnatyam dancer and Padam Shri awardee, Ms. Geeta Chandran graced the Mental Health Festival in the capacity of a Chief Guest. She spoke about how Indian classical dance reinforced positivity in her life. Natya Vriksha, a dance company founded by Ms. Geeta herself also gave a captivating dance performance which received a hearty applause.

The last event before the break was a symposium, moderated by Mr. Sanjeev Upadhyaya, which brought out varied viewpoints on the topic- Mental Health in the Workplace.  One of the panelists, Mr. Rajeev Chandran, Global Head of Accenture’s Leadership programme asserted that corporates must treat mental fatigue as a legitimate medical cause. Mr. Kaunain Sheriff, a senior correspondent of Indian Express, spoke about the stress that journalists are facing after the advent of social media in newsrooms. Overall, it was a very insightful discussion.

After the break concluded, the event continued with the same zeal with the Poetry Slam Competition, ‘Words Will Set You Free’. Participants from various colleges performed their moving pieces of the spoken word, that was followed by a special performance by slam maestro and jury memeber, Diksha Bijlani.

This was followed by public lecture and panel discussion, again, on the topic, ‘Mental Health at Workplace’ which was presented by AIIMS. The lecture was aided by an informative slide show and the focus of the discussion was on how mental illness should be recognised in the workplace, just like physical illness is. This event was followed by a short tea break in the foyer.

Right after, the fest resumed with the exciting Music Competition, ‘Creating Symphonies on the Go’ which had three excellent performances lined up by artists from different genres. The competition was judged by Ms Kamakshi Khanna and Ms Mandakini and was enjoyed thourougly by the audience.

The last event of the night was the closing performance by Manzil Mystics, choir group who performs traditional and folk Indian music. The group enthralled the audience and brought India’s first Mental Health Festival to an end.


Feature Image Credits: Shivam Sharma

Niharika Dabral
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Anagha Rakta
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