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Poddar Foundation to Conduct Mental Health Awareness Sessions for Tribal Schools


Tribal schools in Vikramgad, Maharashtra will soon conduct mental health awareness sessions for students. The intention behind the initiative is to work with the students and teachers at the ashramshalas in Vikramgad to raise awareness about mental health issues. Schools run by the Tribal Development Department (TDD) are basically known as ashramshalas.

These sessions will be run by the Poddar Foundation, a registered trust, which focuses on the causes of mental health problems. The foundation has signed an MOU with the Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP) to conduct mental health awareness sessions which falls under the Jawhar subdivision of Palghar district of Maharashtra.

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These schools, located in remote areas offer a residential educational facility to children from disadvantaged tribal backgrounds especially if the parents seasonally migrate for work.

Speaking of the same, Dr Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee of Poddar Foundation said, “India is home to the largest tribal populations of the world, with 8.6 per cent of total Indian population belonging to scheduled tribes who constitute 705 tribal groups across India. The tribal populations have greater vulnerability to mental health issues for multiple reasons. Available limited evidence supports high levels of stigma, myths and misconceptions about mental illness among tribes.”

Along with Centre for Outreach & Strategic Alliances (COSA) and the assistance of ITDP department, we planned mental health campaigns at the ashramshalas in the tribal areas of Vikramgad to create mental health awareness at the community level. The aim of the project is to promote mental health. We do not want to simply focus on mental illnesses and identifying disorders. We will be taking a holistic approach to cover various aspects like safety, resilience and how to cope, he added.

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A school that makes an effort to constantly promote the mental health and wellbeing of its children strengthens its capacity as a healthy setting for living and learning. “Tribal mental health is an ignored and neglected area in the field of health-care services.  To a large extent, mental health services remain inaccessible for the tribal population who live in remote places. Tribes are special social groups that have their own customs, traditional values, beliefs, and traditional healing systems,” said Neha S Shah, Lead Projects at Poddar Foundation.

She added, “A majority of Tribals do not seek modern treatment for health and mental health problems. Hence, education and awareness regarding mental health issues and modern treatment need to be provided to this population. The idea behind the initiative is not only to improve the mental health of the tribal populations in Vikramgad but also to instil enhanced awareness, knowledge and behavioural change among the teachers and students to reduce the bias and stigma attached to mental health. This will empower children to deal with stress, emotional upheaval as well as become the torch bearers in their communities.” By bringing in innovative models of mental healthcare delivery, Poddar Foundation plans to introduce a comprehensive framework that includes the promotion of growth on all fronts – emotional, psychological, and social.

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