Exams being cancelled, schools and colleges declaring holidays and free time on hand—these were once a Utopian world that students craved. Not anymore. With no social contact barring their smartphones and iPads, youngsters are getting bogged down with stress, anxiety and worry about what the future holds. “There is a lot of pressure and anxiety to be productive every single minute,” says Divya Mundkar, a grade 12 student from The International School Bangalore (TISB). There is also the usual growing-up challenge of changing hormonal levels that is an added stress.
This scenario drove Antara Bhateja, Armaan Bamzai, Divya Mundkur and Minoli Daigavane to co-found Paper Planes Bangalore—a mental health initiative for teens and by teens. The foursome know that they are not professionals in the field. “We, however, do invite professionals such as therapists or psychologists to address the audience and have various resources that people can access on our website. Our main goal is to provide a platform for those who are struggling,” says Divya.
The inspiration was an open conversation about how they each deal with personal struggles through creative expression. They realised that they could translate this to a larger platform and support those who would like to express their thoughts and journey. “This platform is just to show that we are all together in this,” says Antara. One can share writings, poems, music—this, the young co-founders feel, provides youngsters a creative catharsis.
The response, they find, has been overwhelming. With over 150 registrations for their latest event, and over 100 submissions on their platform, they feel they have managed to achieve their goal of providing a free platform to all. “We place a special emphasis on the use of creative expression in relation to mental health,” says Divya. Once a person reaches out to them, they lend the much-needed ear to unburden pent-up emotions. If needed, they also connect the person with professional help. The team further ensures that once a chat comes to an end, the entire conversation is deleted to ensure confidentiality.
Their parents have gone out of their way to help, guiding them through processes and helping in reaching out to professionals in the field. Encouraged by the feedback, the platform has launched other branches in Kashmir, Delhi and Nagpur. “Their platforms have been successful too, with followers picking up quickly. We are also very close to launching our Chennai branch,” says Divya, adding that this initiative will continue post the pandemic too.
Mental health and teens
- Recognise anxiety is completely normal
- Create distractions
- Find new ways to connect with friends
- Focus on self
- Let feelings prevail
- Be kind