The Gujarat National Law University launched the GNLU Wellness Initiative Cell under its aegis on April 29, 2022.
The Cell, which is a student-led initiative, has been created with the vision to create a sustainable, holistic culture of overall wellness for the students, faculty, staff, and other members of the GNLU family. The formalized launch event was scheduled from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm IST and saw an enthusiastic attendance from renowned mental health practitioners, the Administration and the student fraternity.
Dr. Pratima Murthy, Professor and Director- NIMHANS graced the occasion as the Guest of Honour for the evening. Other keynote speakers included: Prof Geetha Desai, Professor of Psychiatry NIMHANS; Dr. Itisha Nagar, (Asst. Prof) Delhi University; Dr. Jini Gopinath, Chief Psychology Officer of Your Dost and Arjun Kapoor, Programme Manager & Research Fellow at Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy, ILS, Pune.
The event started with (Prof) Dr. S. Shanthakumar, Director of Gujarat National Law University presenting the inaugural address. He highlighted the importance of cultivating a supportive culture of mental health and emotional well-being upkeep, a nurturing environment and a safe space within the University campus.
He also spoke of GNLU’s collaboration with Your DOST: India’s largest mental health and wellness platform and the relevance it shall play in furthering the mission and vision that led to the culmination of this Cell. Lastly, he thanked the final-year students who were instrumental in the establishment of the Cell: Aayushi, Rishab, Alolika, Bhavnish, Divisha, Shreyansh and Aditi.
In her keynote address, Dr. Geetha Desai passionately spoke of her associations with student wellness centers on campus. She emphasized the problems faced by college students and drew a corollary to explain that in turn a Centre created for such a cause should be student-friendly, culturally acceptable and easy. Lastly, she congratulated the founding members of the GWIC for this initiative.
The address was followed by Dr. Itisha Nagar. She eloquently talked about how the pandemic has affected everyone’s mental health in a multitude of ways. She explained that alongside the grief of losing loved ones, people have been faced with predicaments of making social connections online and family issues, due to being in close proximity most of the time.
She quoted Viktor Frankl to state that “abnormal adjustment to abnormal situations is normal”, which was quite resonant for everyone present. She ended on an aspirational note for the Cell hoping it would cater to the needs of students as well as administrative staff and faculties, and that it would serve to shatter the stigmas and myths associated with mental health, allowing them to talk of their concerns freely.
The formalized e-launch of the Cell was done by the Guest of Honour, Dr. Pratima Murthy via a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony. In her keynote speech, she firstly commended everyone involved with the culmination of the GWIC. She very persuasively talked of the need to spread awareness of mental health issues.
A very pertinent point that she spoke of was the need to imbibe a mental health education and present it as a lifestyle choice. She also explained the need to evolve guidelines and easy channels for people who need help to access them and the importance to be empathetic to people who are more susceptible to mental health. While sharing anecdotes of her experiences with mental health issues faced by college students, she expressed the need for creating a safe space and accessibility to certified resources. Her address gave all present an ingenious perspective on the issues of mental health amongst students and was truly inspired everyone in attendance to revaluate their mental and emotional well-being needs.
The next speaker for the event was Dr. Jini Gopinath. He congratulated the institution on paving the way for such an initiative for the entire legal fraternity. His address focused on the need to create a strategy for the promotion of mental health in a manner that is nurturing and intuitive about the needs of its members. He ended his speech by raising a very vital question of how to draw the attention of students and staff alike to use this facility to work on their mental health actively.
The last guest speaker for the evening was Mr. Arjun Kapoor. He spoke of his own work trajectory to fluently emphasize the need for accessibility to mental health resources. Through his address, he highlighted how young people are more vulnerable to mental health issues and suicide is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15-29 years in India.
He progressed to talk about the intersection between law and mental health, and pointed out how the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, is the only law that recognizes the right to access mental health care and treatment. He also commented on how we have a well drafted legislation in place for mental health but the implementation of the same is extremely poor. He explained that the need for creating a culture of care and nurturing space has never been more essential especially because the law has historically always worked towards curtailing the autonomy of individuals facing mental health issues. Ultimately, he highlighted that quality, affordable mental health resources are need of the hour.
This was followed by the vote of thanks for the evening presented by Dr. Jagadeesh Chandra T.G., Registrar- Gujarat National Law University. He thanked the guest of honour, speakers and the faculty convener for their inspiring presence. He also took the opportunity to thank the Director, faculty convener of GWIC and student members of the Cell for their efforts in the culmination of this endeavor. He also extended his gratitude towards Your DOST and sincerely expressed interest to take their collaboration forward.
The Launch event was followed by an orientation session by Mr. Puneet, Co-Founder of Your DOST, to familiarize the students with how to use the platform and led to the unveiling of the much-anticipated services of the former.
The event was a resounding success and was found to be truly helpful and insightful by everyone in attendance.