Mind it

Updated: Mar 31, 2020, 10:36 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

With stories communicated through interactive installations, a new travelling museum dedicated to mental health will come to five cities this year, including Mumbai

Exhibits from the Mann Mela pilot in Goa held in February. Pics/Facebook
Exhibits from the Mann Mela pilot in Goa held in February. Pics/Facebook

Everyone is blessed with mental health. It's an asset," Pattie Gonsalves says. A project director for It's Ok To Talk, an initiative by PRIDE, Sangath (a Goa-based NGO) and a platform for young people to share their experiences with mental illnesses and well-being, Gonsalves maintains that this asset should come across to people as a fundamental idea that they need to protect, preserve and promote. That's what led to the conceptualisation of a travelling museum dedicated to the mental health of young people called Mann Mela.

Mapping India
The initiative is essentially a two-year-long public engagement project led by Sangath and Quicksand Design Studio, supported by the Wellcome Trust. Its relevance grows each day — according to a Lancet medical journal study, India has the highest number of youth suicides in the world, with less than 10 per cent of this demographic having access to any kind of mental health care at all. The first step of Mann Mela entails collecting stories from individuals aged between 18 and 30. If your contribution is selected and you choose to participate, a phone interview will be conducted.

Exhibits from the Mann Mela pilot in Goa held in February. Pics/Facebook

After extracting insights from these stories, it will be communicated through arts and technology-based installations that will travel to university campuses in New Delhi, Bhopal, Imphal, Goa and Mumbai between July and December this year. The submission process has already begun, and although entries will be shortlisted, Gonsalves maintains that each piece will find its place on their website eventually. So, there isn't a last date for submission. "We had conducted a pilot in Goa in February, to understand what a young person who comes to the mela is looking for. We had a range of formats — for instance, one exhibit had personal artefacts provided by an individual with audio clips of their story attached to it while another one was a sort of video game that showed a transperson's transition from male to female,"
Gonsalves shares.

Coping with the lockdown
The organising team also hopes to touch upon the ongoing pan- India lockdown through the museum since many people have been opening up about their anxieties related to it on their social media page. "Given the situation and the unpredictability of offline events, we're trying to shift the museum online and use virtual reality, too. We hope to receive 30 stories by June," she says. And to make this a learning tool, the digital museum will include information accompanying the subject each story is dealing with. The goal, Gonsalves says, is to reframe the scary notion attached to mental health, and "to do this through mediums young people can identify with".

Pattie Gonsalves

Log on to mannmela.in (to submit your story)

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