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Handed over World Culture Festival venue to Delhi government, says Art of Living

Environmental consultant Rakesh Rajan said the site was given back to the Delhi Development Authority after cleaning up the garbage.

The Art of Living Foundation has handed over the the site they used for their 35th anniversary festivities more than a month after the event was hosted on the Yamuna floodplains in Delhi, reported Hindustan Times. Environmental consultant Rakesh Rajan said the site was given back to the Delhi Development Authority after cleaning up the garbage that had accumulated over the three days of the World Culture Festival. He said the Foundation has followed a thorough process to clean the place and assess the impact to make sure that no harm was done to the environment.

“We started with visual assessment of the site by photographing the environmental indicators. We conducted 6-7 site visits and created a photographic inventory. A huge amount of money has been spent to sanitise the site and every single bit of garbage has been handpicked and removed,” Ranjan said. He added that grass has started growing back on the site on its own, and that was an indicator that the event had minimal impact of the environment.

On April 22, the National Green Tribunal pulled up the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-led organisation for not allowing inspections at the site. The NGT asked AOL why and with what authority it had restricted access to a high-powered committee, set up by the tribunal. To this, the Foundation’s counsel had said that they were still cleaning up the site when the team arrived on April 15, and they wanted the team to return once they had handed the area back over to the DDA on April 18.

The green tribunal had fined the foundation Rs 5 crore for causing damage to the floodplains through the massive festival. The committee told the NGT that the foundation had only paid the initial Rs 25 lakh of the fine, and was yet to pay the rest. The NGT had earlier estimated an appropriate fine of Rs 120 crore, it settled on the Rs 5-crore figure after a long set of deliberations.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.