The school psychiatry conference organised at Sion Hospital, Mumbai on 19th January 2019 was a treat to attend- how wonderful to see a conference on International Standards. To begin with, the conference was free which was in itself a magnanimous gesture. But the crowd puller (of over 500 participants) was definitely the quality of the presentations.

Dr Kersi Chavda with his trademark humour was a lively and informative host. On one occasion he made the audience literally dance to his tunes, brandishing a whip! It was my first meeting with this wonderful person who has done much for the cause of mental health (including being a catalyst behind the 377 repealing). He, along with Dr Avinash Desousa put up a show that was a buffet of mental health presentations, each superior than the other.

Although I couldn’t stay for the entire event, the talks I could catch were Sexuality Education 2020 by the wonderful Dr Neha, whose work with sexuality awareness in schools in already well-known. She was lucid, informative and straightforward. Today’s youth is exposed to much more sexuality than or generation ever was. We need to walk with the times and get educated ourselves. Another wonderful talk that hit the chord with the audience was by Dr Ruksheda Syeda on being sensitive to the LGBT community in schools. The youth is again being more open about their sexual preferences and unlike the previous generation are less likely to think of Homosexuality as a crime/sin/deviant behaviour.

Some of the other talks by Dr Amrit and Dr Alka were mind-blowing as well. It’s unfortunate I missed the afternoon half of the presentations and panel discussions.

The talk that stayed with me was Dr Avinash’s presentation about his ideas on having mental heath cafes in schools. Such a path-breaking idea may take years to be accepted in a country where we are still finding acceptance of mental health and mental health professionals. However, the overall take-away is that there is a vision among the MHPs to create an India that gives importance to the mind and emotions, and considers these as necessary for growth. 

When I left the conference, it was not just with increased knowledge and awareness. It was with a sense of pride. That with such torch bearers in the mental health fraternity….the cause of mental health in India can only have a bright future.