April 19, 2019

Youth Advocacy for Mental Health: Create Leaders to Innovate and Break Stigma!


One out of four people will develop a mental health problem at some point of life, according to the World Health Organisation. Over the 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Six out of 20 countries with the highest suicide rates in the world are in the European Region. Unofficially though, but India is regarded as the suicide capital, with the highest number of suicides taking place in the youth and more than 130 thousand suicides in 2015-16. According to a WHO systematic review of data and statistics from community studies in European Union (EU) countries, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland: 27% of the adult population had experienced at least one of a series of mental disorders in the past year. A third of the global burden of disease for mental, neurological and substance use disorders occurs in India, which is more than in all high-income countries combined – yet most people with mental disorders in these countries do not receive needed treatment. These figures represent an enormous toll of human ill health, with an estimated 83 million people being affected within the European Region and over 60 million people in India. The numbers of people affected are high, but the question of why there are no major government interference still remains unanswered.

Mental Health is everyone’s business; it affects both, the lives of people living with mental health problems, their careers, and the productivity of society as a whole. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, responsible for 30-40% of chronic sick leave and costing some 3% of GDP, contributing to a national economic burden as well. Majority of mental health illnesses develop early at adulthood between the ages of 16 and 25, therefore making it a significant problem among the youth. It is the lack of structure and qualitative mass dissemination of existing information and resources from the mental health sector to the society at large.  Much is already known about what works in mental health promotion, prevention, care and treatment, the challenge is now to implement this knowledge and bring it to masses.

The Indian-European Social Change Ecosystem, Make Room India has gathered some of the brightest minds of Europe and India to drive positive social change within the mental health youth sector in India and Europe. A group of passionate mental health advocated from Norway and India have identified the major obstacles within the sector and have begun developing replicable and innovative interventions to address the identified issues.

Pragya Lodha, the Mental Health Project coordinator claims:

“There are 3 major problems within the mental health sector in India and Europe. First, there is a lack of strong leadership within the health sector, that leads to poor advocacy of mental health within the comprehensive health and well-being sectors. Second, there is a lack of quality information available to masses leading to late interventions, poor treatments, self medicating and emerging false self diagnosis that pose further risk to health conditions. Third, there is huge societal stigma and several cultural barriers associated to mental health issues leading to people deny mental health care for better living.”

The group of passionate health experts were gathered at the first edition of the Changemakers’ Room, organized by the Indian-European Social Change Ecosystem, Make Room India in order to innovate sustainable interventions contributing to raise awareness of mental health and begin the much needed dialogue within the mental health sectors.

“This is the peak time for the mental health interventions to finally arise at the spotlight, as even the world leaders have recognized the promotion of mental health and well-being, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, as health priorities within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3)”, suggests Miks C-Kellman, the Chair, Changemakers’ Room

The project developed by health experts from India and Europe focuses on building 3 major interventions. First, a capacity building programme for strong leadership; second, an online portal to bridge the information gap and third an innovative board game to raise awareness, to break stigma and begin the much needed dialogue of mental health.

“This project contributes in building an envisioned world where physical, mental and social well-being are assured, with a focus on youth. This cross-continental approach will bring the best to build leaders advocating sustainable solutions within the mental health sector”, adds Pranav Hebber, Co-Founder, Make Room India.

This specific project developing interventions on mental health is one of the eight projects developed under the Action Agenda for Change 2020 framework, coordinated by the Indian-European Social Change Ecosystem, Make Room India. Currently, Make Room India is on the lookout for passionate and committed individuals ready to drive positive social change across borders. To read more click the link


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