LovvYouZindagi: The countdown begins

LovvYouZindagi: The countdown begins

Minu Budhia is a woman on a rather big mission: to normalise conversation on mental health and to make it fashionable. She has spent a decade chasing this goal with her mental health institute, ‘Caring Minds’ and as part of the 10-year celebration, she introduced ‘LovvYouZindagi’, a festival on happiness and mental health that aims to engage young minds from regular schools in many creative competitions.

‘LovvYouZindagi’ is touching young minds like never before. Currently, there are two groups: classes IX to XII and young professionals from the age group of 18-30. Competitions of tagline, photography and radio jingle/ad contests, short essays, awareness posters and a micro-documentary on mental health are aiding them in expressing themselves with sheer honesty.

Ahead of the closing date of the contest, a host of principals and heads of educational institutions in Calcutta assembled at ‘Caring Minds’ on Sarat Bose Road to join in the journey to create awareness about mental health with Minu. The invitees included Prof. Suranjan Das, VC, Adamas University; Swati Sarawagi, Director, Swarnim International School; Bratati Bhattacharyya, Secretary General and CEO of Shikshayatan Foundation and others.

Commenting on the new project and associating with schoolchildren, Minu Budhia said, “Schools are children’s second homes, so we wanted to rope in all principals as our mental health partners in progress. Today’s purpose is not only to communicate the ‘why’ behind ‘LovvYouZindagi’, but also to re-emphasise the importance of children’s mental health, especially high school students. The response to ‘LovvYouZindagi’ overjoys me. As the entries are coming in, I’m being able to gauge what these young minds are feeling. Their creative output reflects what’s on their mind. I am truly amazed by how talented, expressive and brave these children are. They’re opening up and sharing their deepest, unfiltered thoughts for the first time. This is also something I wanted to share with the educators present here. ‘LovvYouZindagi’ has become more than a platform. I can see it growing into a medium that’s non-threatening, non-judgemental and non-overwhelming. Our kids know it’s okay not to be okay. Now that they are learning, it’s okay to express that. It is okay to ask for help.”

All entries have been assessed, creative minds have been shortlisted and the stage is all set to make the world more inclusive. LovvYouZindagi’s jury has set the ball rolling for the finale with their verdict, which will be made public at a grand event on October 15. The creativity contest for young adults with the theme of mental health saw an overwhelming response from kids and young adults in Calcutta, with noteworthy entries in categories.

Excited about the finale, Minu said, “In the beginning, I was really sceptical about how many would participate. But I thought that if it fails, let it fail. I’ll still try because it’s through failures that we rise. I’m thrilled to say that within one week we were flooded with entries. It gives me so much hope for the future to see that our applicants know that it’s okay not to be okay and that they are already taking positive steps to maintain good mental health daily. The celebrity final judging round was equally tough and I’d like to extend my thanks to all the judges who have patiently and dedicatedly gone through all the entries. It was lovely to see that they were as excited as I was about the entries. They all agreed that it opened up a whole new perspective and a whole new way to dialogue with the youth of today about their mental health.”

Actor Rituparna Sengupta appreciated the method of channelling the creativity of young minds: “Minu puts her whole heart, mind and energy into everything she does, just like she did in her book and she’s doing the same with this initiative. It’s so commendable. As a creative person, I fully appreciate that their creative skills are being used as a platform to make the youth feel heard. We should make them feel very special and encourage them further.”

Nick Low, the British deputy high commissioner, talked about the importance of mainstreaming mental health conversation and lauded Budhia’s efforts: “It’s been a lot of fun, hugely entertaining and a wonderful way to tackle such an important issue. It’s disappointing that we still have to do exercises like this to talk about mental health when it should be part of everyday conversation. I must say bravo to the entrants and Minu and her team. They made it a tremendous success. Sorting through scores of entries and doing a part of the difficult work for us was a challenge because the entries we saw were so good. However, for us too, choosing from the selected entries was no easy task!”

Prof. Suranjan Das, impressed by the entries, said, “We’ve marked so many in 8s, 9s, and 10s because the entries are extremely touching and strong. However, as I see it, what’s not important is winning, but participation. Especially in a contest that deals with such an important, delicate topic in such a unique and creative way. I have one message: please be aware of your own mental health. There’s always a solution to be found. Please talk, discuss, read, understand and most importantly, reach out when you feel you need help.”

US consul-general Melinda Pavek said, “Being a judge was more difficult than I expected. There were deep meaning and really good thoughts, ideas and creativity in the shortlisted entries. Creativity is the only tool that can be used to understand the minds of youth. Any time you take a moment to reflect on what you’re thinking and why you are thinking it, you’re likely to uncover information about yourself. It can really open up your eyes to see the patterns of your own behaviour, which is important for good mental health.”

Actor June added, “I’d like to thank ‘Caring Minds’ and Minu Budhia for making me a part of this great initiative. I really look up to her, as she swam against so many challenges in life. She’s seen as an icon where mental health is concerned. It was really quite difficult to judge as the entries are so from within and they are so expressive. But I feel that scores are not important. What’s important is that they have expressed themselves. I had tears in the corners of my eyes while reading some entries. If I had had my way, I would have given them all a 10 on 10. I wish all the participants all the best.”

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