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Promoting Mental Health Awareness In Low-Income Communities

Adolescence is a particularly tumultuous time for youngsters all over the world. However, those children belonging to the underprivileged classes seem to find it especially difficult due to the myriad of pressures and troubles they face every day. Recently, the teaching staff at the Roshan Aaj Library and Learning Center was dismayed to find out that many of their students also suffered from a lot of anxiety, stress and thus were very under confident in class. Realizing the importance of mental health awareness, as well as the taboo on any mental health discussion in the society, AHKRC decided to set up a bi-monthly mental health awareness session conducted by a trained and professional psychologist, Mr. Hassan Arshad.

Each session is designed to address one major topic; in the three sessions conducted so far, the topics of discussion were confidence, feelings and self-awareness. It is highly important that each student is fully engaged and interested to ensure maximum impact. Accordingly, the sessions are designed to be highly interactive, allowing students a chance for self-deliberation and giving them time to share with the rest of the class.

“It was interesting to note that a lot of the stress that the students reported having was tied in some way with their performance in school. This is completely normal because at this age children are trying to figure out their identity, and their expectations from life. So it is easy to feel stressed and anxious,” said Mr. Arshad.

Figure 1: Session on Self Awareness

Having built a strong rapport with the students, Mr. Arshad also encouraged students to share their stories with other students in a group setting. Even students who did not feel comfortable sharing reported that they felt better knowing other students also struggled with some of the same problems. In these sessions, students were also taught to identify positive and negative feelings, and their reactions to these feelings. They also learned some breathing exercises to deal with their negative emotions.

Sadia* was one of the students who was under a lot of pressure at home and at school. She had previously shown signs of under confidence and a quick temper. After the sessions, she conveyed to the staff that she felt she had benefitted from the sessions. She now felt more able to control her emotions and direct them in a more positive direction.

Figure 2. Mr. Hassan Arshad with some of his students

Mental health awareness is a very important part of a child’s education while growing up, because it can help prevent problems in the future. It is not usually discussed, however, due to the taboo that surrounds the topic. The Roshan Aaj Library and Learning Center has tried to start a dialogue with its students in the hopes of producing well-rounded and self-aware individuals, and hopes that others will follow their example.

The article has been written in collaboration with Mr. Hassan Arshad, the lead psychologist at Akhter Hameed Khan Resource Center. For any further details on the mental health initiative, reach out at hassan@ahkrc.org. If you’d like to donate or get involved for supporting education of underprivileged children in Dhok Hassu, contact us at library@ahkrc.org.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy of the person.

Contributed by: Hania Hussain

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