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Mental Health Initiatives in the Culture Sector

Compiled and maintained by Yadhukrishnan TM

Image credits: Dan Meyers Mental Health is often a neglected area of healthcare in the Indian socio-cultural ecosystem with low sensitivity and awareness around the subject. A couple of years back, WHO labelled India as the most depressed country in the world with at least 6.5 % of the country's population suffering from mental health disorders. Fast forward to 2020, with WHO proclaiming COVID-19 as a pandemic, an already precarious culture sector was beginning to crack. A sector largely consisting of no institutional framework, sustained through informal relations, private funding and a freelance workforce, was displaying the effects of the pandemic and global economy. We at ACRI, through our initial conversations with friends in the sector, noticed the ripple effect of the situation on art professionals and their mental health, and a growing need to address the issue. Through this blog, we have tried to list the mental health initiatives that have sprung up in the sector and are championing the cause:

1) Mental Well Being with Prakriti Established in 1998, the Prakriti Foundation straddles many worlds of the arts in the city of Chennai, organising theatre festivals, poetry festivals, and dance festivals annually along with consistent arts programming round the year. With the onset of the pandemic, Prakriti Foundation's Meera Krishnan (Senior Programme Coordinator) was one of the first among arts institutions to step-up and address the stigma around mental health through artistic interventions. Through their project, Mental Well Being with Prakriti, they share resources, organise workshops and lectures, and advocate for mental health and well being within the artistic community. Website: Instagram: @theprakritifoundation 2) Circle of Resilience - Diya Naidu Diya Naidu, Artist, Dance and Choreographer based in Bengaluru, initiated a circle of ten art-humans and a therapist as a safe-space, as essentially a circle of 'humans' who wish to check-in on each other and the community. Diya hosts Circles of Resilience regularly. To be part of a circle, contact her via her social media accounts. Facebook: Instagram: @diyanise 3) Illustrators working on Mental Health Sonaksha Through her campaigns A to Z of Mental Health and the Garden of Kindness, Sonaksha has been a champion of mental care in the creative community well before the pandemic. Art and mental illness: How I created my garden of kindness is a TED Talk she gave describing her journey. Instagram: @sonaksha (Check out her beautiful illustrations here) Pranita Kocharekar Another super popular artist, Pranita has been an old advocate of mental health through her illustrations. Through her often bright and colourful sketches, she breaks down simple and easy to follow practices to upkeep your mental health. She also shares rich mental health resources with her fifty thousand strong Instagram community. Website: Mental health archive: Instagram: @pranitart 4) InnerHour An initiative by Neha Kirpal, former director of India Art Fair, InnerHour is a mobile app for mental well being. Inner Hour offers self-help courses to battle depression, control stress and fight anxiety. With personalised plans, self-care goals and a tracker, the mobile application is all you need to live your day. The application also comes with a bunch of resources on mental health together with a chat bot you can talk to for relief. Inner Hour also offers a Employee Happiness Program for Employers, with a focus on Work-Life balance, Mindfulness at Work, Communication and Stress Management. Website: Instagram: @innerhour 5) We The Young A media startup, We The Young operates around the intersections of Mental Health, Youth Culture and Storytelling. They program events, workshops, mentorship and awareness sessions on Mental Health to make it more accessible amongst the young India. They recently launched Mental Health Dost, a support and resource platform which even consists of some calming music and cool art therapy sessions! Check out their YouTube page which has some powerful and empowering stories around mental health and success. Website: Instagram: @wetheyoungindia As creative professionals ourselves, we understand the need for a strong mental health and support system in the art and culture sector. If you know of other such initiatives aimed at the creative sector, please let us know and we'd be glad to add it here.


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