BENGALURU: For 18-year-old Sneha, the exploration of the unseen was just beginning. With small dreams, meagre confidence but a youthful curiosity, she left home in Sirsi, Uttara Kannada, to Karwar to pursue a Diploma in Drawing and Painting. But in the next eight months, before she could complete the one-year course, her life was shattered. She was distressed due to ragging but found comfort in her boyfriend. The continued trauma of ragging was elevated further when her boyfriend deserted her and she had to deal with a heartbreak. Sneha’s hopes fell silently but the ruin was within. She abandoned the course, came back home and became a recluse. Her dreams locked up inside her.
Around the same time, a youth movement, Yuva Spandana, supported by the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) was gaining ground across Karnataka. Sneha’s worried parents got to know of it during a sensitisation drive and decided to visit the centre in their district. And that is when they and their entire neighbourhood realised the effectiveness of the programme.
The movement, that began informally in April 2014, was officially launched in October this year to promote healthy lifestyles and provide counselling to troubled youths. Yuva Spandana Kendras follow a unique model because the guidance is given by youngsters, making it a one-of-a-kind initiative in the country.The centres focus on reducing major risk factors from noncommunicable diseases and aims at implementing integrated behavioural, physical, mental and psychological support to young people, aged 15-30 years. These centres are run by trained youngsters or Yuva Parivartakas who are aged not more than 40 years.
“As part of Karnataka Youth Policy 2012, it was planned that a separate area be added to empower the youth, improve their quality of life, develop skills and enhance knowledge. In India, we have treatment delivery models or care delivery models for youngsters who are healthy but mentally disturbed. What makes Yuva Spandana stand out is that it is an empowerment model with focus on all aspects of youth-related issues,” says Dr G Gururaj, Professor, Head, Department of Epidemiology, NIMHANS and in charge of the programme.
According to him, it was in 2013 when NIMHANS took up the youth empowerment initiative. “We took almost two-and-a-half years to create the building blocks before launching the programme officially. We started with informal consultations with youngsters and families to understood their concerns,” he says.
Their findings suggested that a majority of cases were related to sex and sexuality. Since then, they have identified 10 other areas that are critical for the programme. All are centered around the youth, including education, community relations, health, lifestyle, safety and relationship.
After continual discussions with many departments in each district, they identified a core team and gave them the title of Yuva Parivartakas. “We have five of them in each of the 13 districts and all are trained at NIMHANS,” explains Gururaj.
In every district, the kendras are located at a stadium under the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports. Another development during the testing phase was the inclusion of more youngsters to support the Yuva Parivartakas. “They are called Yuva Mithras,” he says.
As for Sneha, she is recovering, thanks to the district Yuva Parivartaka who referred her to a Salaha Kendra (psychological counsellor) as a result of his resource mapping of the district.