In our country lack of open conversation on mental health has been a huge obstacle due to various factors. Fear of what family or society will think or in other cases individuals are not aware where to go and whom to approach and many times ignorance of their own as well as their close ones’ mental state. There are lot of misconceptions about counsellors and counselling. Counsellors are not magicians with magic wand in their hands who will resolve your issues on the spot. Counsellors do not give advice or label person, since each individual has unique life situation which needs to be understood. They help individuals in understanding themselves and their situation and accordingly make their own decisions which are helpful and productive.
In our fast paced city, we have Open Your Arms (OYA) founded by Raheen Jummani Jaiswal in Oct 2010 that aims to heal all types of psycho-social problems faced by children while providing them with coping mechanisms to deal with such issues. OYA is a team of full-time, part-time and interns consisting of mental health professionals that include counsellors, psychologists, remedial educators and therapists who are passionate and understand the need to create a better platform for child to blossom with love and care. OYA has partnered with various NGOs, rescue homes, schools in Mumbai to provide counselling, remedial education, workshops and trainings to help and nurture children who had dealt with trafficking, prostitution, sexual abuse, learning disabilities and other distress situations. Raheen who had completed her Clinical Psychology from SNDT, Mumbai in 2006 has been passionate about psychology subject right from her school days and was also actively involved in social services. It was during her project with commercial sex workers and their daughters she realized that children suffer lot of problems which many times they are not able to express to anyone. After working with various NGOs for several years, Raheen went ahead with her dream of setting up her own organization which was inspired by children and their innocence with whom she had worked a long time. Raheen says, “It was not easy to start such platform; however my passion and constant support from my family has helped OYA to grow.” She further adds, “St. Isabel High School, Mazgaon was the first school to say yes to partner with us and from there on it was never looking back.”
OYA offers psychotherapy in combination with creative therapy, which is their forte. Creative therapy consists of dance therapy, music therapy, cinema therapy, etc. Raheen says,”It was bit difficult initially to make understand parents, teachers and school staff importance of counselling and other activities associated with it for overall development of children; however the most challenging part for us was when we went to rescue home to interact with children and it took almost 3 months to break the ice.” She further states with a smile, “The change I have seen in school children has been really good; however the girls in rescue home has shown incredible change which makes me and my team really happy and inspires us to do more.” On occasion of their 5th anniversary in Oct 2015 they had launched an initiative called “Spreading Smiles.” Raheen intends to have shelter home for children and girls and create pool of people sharing the same passion for creating a child friendly environment.
Ravi Shet is the writer of this article and Co-founder of www.treatum.com, an online healthcare portal connecting patients with right doctors.