by Dr. SD Shanti
Today is World Mental Health Day and it is a good moment to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes work. I’ve had a short sabbatical from blogging while working on grant proposals, and partnerships, and identifying the next steps in light of my current situation and related resources.
The pandemic derailed major pledges, especially from some well-known musicians who had offered to do benefit concerts, and I have been challenged me to find alternate ways to keep the mission going. Violence prevention and depression prevention, along with related issues such as the prevention of distress and chronic stress have never been more urgent.
The pandemic has exacerbated psychological needs while access to psychological care continues to be difficult to locate for many, and is financially out of reach for many. Rates of violence continue as well.
In light of all this, I have decided to soon embark on teaching the public, especially anyone who is in a position of leadership within their community, organization, school, etc. about the science of prevention.
Currently, I am in the process of evaluating various online teaching platforms and accompanying technology that allows us to create communities of practice, such that people who learn about prevention can support one another, encourage one another and learn from one another as we work collectively to take prevention modalities to the tipping point.
I have also been active behind the scenes, getting ready to scale my violence prevention pilot and proof of concept conducted in Ethiopia and which reached 20 million listeners. This was carried out with grants from UNICEF and the American Psychological Foundation. I am now preparing to mobilize support for a three-year-long serial drama intended to reach 200 million people, in the first of its kind effort to prevent sexual violence and change related harmful social norms via mass media.
Fingers crossed, I recently submitted a grant to a US source to train media personnel in violence prevention, but won’t know until March of next year if that comes through or not. Regardless of what one funder may or may not do, the work needs to be carried out urgently around the world and I will soon launch crowdfunding efforts to that end.
We are still in the midst of the pandemic, but it appears that the worst is behind us. This means we can resume our focus on other equally urgent matters such as the global epidemic of violence which affects over a billion people as well as the global epidemic of depression and chronic emotional distress.
As part of my regrouping in light of the challenges of the past couple of years, and in light of a recent milestone birthday, I’ve decided to focus on two major goals in this body of work:
a. teach people from various countries, about the primary prevention of violence, depression, and emotional distress, such that they are empowered to take action within their spheres of influence;
b. infuse mass media with pro-social content that models alternatives to violence and promotes healthy social norms.
In the language of goals and targets, that translates into “teach (at least) a million and reach (at least) a billion people.
Last but not least, lest you think that all this talk of prevention science risks being stuffy and overly serious, I leave you with a video my sister the epidemiologist created for World Mental Health Day. As she is extraverted, she took the lead in making the video below, while I remained in the background, taking up the task of writing this post. She hopes it makes you smile and we both thank you for sharing this post and the video with your family, friends, and colleagues.
By sharing our messages, and encouraging people to sign up for the list and the forthcoming prevention courses, you are helping to advance prevention in this world.
P.S. For the prevention courses, I will be following the concept of Langar, namely that no one will be turned away if they cannot pay, and those who are inspired to support the worldwide teaching efforts will be gratefully acknowledged and appreciated.