By Kaberi Gogoi
With rising unemployment, declining incomes, and increasing issues of domestic violence in families, there has been a steady rise in mental health issues among India’s youth, during the pandemic. Bangalore-based, 17-year old Ayushi Kishore is part of Future Leaders’ program by 1M1B Foundation in regards with her project ‘i4inspire’. Kishore is raising awareness about issues of mental health in India’s youth, and how to tackle them. Excerpts from an email interview:
Q1. Where did the idea for ‘i4inspire’ come from and how did you get started?
When I was in grade 9, I read a story about a boy of my age from Bangalore who lost his battle against mental wellness. This impacted me deeply and made me more sensitive and observant about this problem in my day-to-day life. I started noticing more and more of my peers facing challenges and not having a proper solution.
Around the same time, I was introduced to 1M1Bs Future leaders’ program. This program with its rigorous training and quality mentorship provided the bedrock for me to develop my initiative further.
Elements like problem identification, solution, reverse brainstorming, and pivoting were very useful to make my ‘idea’ of solving a real-life issue a ‘reality’. During my work with 1M1B Foundation, I realised that I had to work to spread mental wellness, as I believed an intervention at a proper time could have helped save that boy’s life.
The reason I chose to name my project “I4inspire” is because one of the key pillars of the project is to inspire the youth, in a way to inspire others. The ‘I’ in I4inspire stands for the ‘I’ in each Individual who stands for the change.
Q2. Who is your target audience?
Since the issues around Mental Health are too prevalent, virtually anyone and everyone who is knowingly or unknowingly leading with these issues become a target audience for my work.
However, to better focus my efforts, my project has three critical elements, one focuses on youth in general, while there are elements that focus on youth and adolescents with intellectual challenges
Q3. How do you reach your target audience? What tools do you use?
Partnerships, speaking at Events, Workshops, blogs, and leveraging social media for amplifying awareness and fundraising are the tools I have extensively used for my project. Being a technology enthusiast, I used online technology (social media and website) to spread mental awareness.
Across all these mediums, I have reached over 12000 individuals thus far. My goal is 100, 10000, 100000. This means, to support the skilling of 100 intellectually challenged people, raise awareness on mental wellness among 10000 youth and engage and inspire 100,000 individuals to lead a positive life. Hence, I will continue scaling my current efforts to reach my vision.
Q4 What are the most challenging aspects of this project and how are you overcoming them?
- The biggest challenge I have faced in my work so far, is people don’t know what ‘they don’t know’ unlike other ailments, people never know they have mental wellness issues unless they are terribly ill or are diagnosed for intellectual challenges, hence they rarely seek out help. Moreover, mental health remains a subject with a lot of taboo and people often shy away from speaking about/ participating in discussions around the same.
- Unlike other projects like water-saving etc where the measures of impact are visible and easy to track, mental health is a subject where the measurability of the final impact is always tough to gauge, I have hence relied on process indicators like reach and engagement than the impact on the mental wellbeing of a person and this is an area I would like to develop further and measure over the next two years.
- While mental health issues have far gotten worse during COVID times due to the nature of illness, isolation, and WFH, covid-19 became a showstopper in several ways, the impact it had on my project was that of limiting fundraisers for the cause as people were generously contributing for covid response and recovery and I am hoping this will soon normalize and people will focus on this alarming issue as early as possible.
Q5. Have you done any fund-raising activities?
Yes, as mentioned, I am to skill 1000 intellectually challenged persons, towards this I was able to raise over Rs 70,000 in funds for NGOs who work towards a similar cause to support the skilling of youth and adolescents with intellectual challenges. My journey has just started and I am working on ramping this fundraising further.
Q6. What are the areas of mental health you’re most concerned about?
What concerns me most about mental health, as I said is, people, don’t know what ‘they don’t know’ unlike other ailments, people never know they have mental wellness issues unless they are terribly ill & mostly never seek out help.
Moreover, mental health remains a subject with a lot of taboo and people often shy away from speaking about/ participating in discussions around the same
Q7. What is the role of 1M1B in your project?
1M1B Foundation (1 Million for 1 Billion ) gave me an opportunity to help me work towards this cause that I feel deeply for.
They provided me with several platforms not only at the UN – 1M1B Activate Impact Summit’2019 but also provided me several opportunities to pitch my ideas to mentors’ judges and peers.
These instances helped me redefine my project and make it more impactful and also motivated me and allowed me to grow as a person who could take an idea and make it a reality.
Q8. What are your career plans and plans for this project in the future?
As I wrap up my 12th grade, I am deeply interested in pursuing my higher education in computer science.
As, I believe technology is a huge leveler, while I continue to further my ‘I4inspire’ efforts, I am also deeply concerned about the participation of women in Tech, towards this I am using my other initiative “VisCode” to bring more girls into coding and improve their tech affinity.
I believe more women in tech will have an immense impact not only on women and their wellbeing but also on the global economy at large.
As part of the 1M1B future leaders’ program, I learned several valuable skills such as ideating, pivoting, and taking constructive feedback. These are skills that I will continue to implement and strengthen. That apart, I will continue to mentor other future leaders who are working towards their dreams and goals.