Last November, I had invited applications from psychology students in India to help me run a project that'd explore how Sanity can partner and grow with the student community. Apart from expanding readership among students, I wanted the project to address a vital lack: We talk so much about our alarming deficit of qualified mental health professionals, and yet, the voices and concerns of psychology students are missing from the mental health conversation.
- What motivates young people to join this incredibly demanding profession?
- What are the gaps in their classroom education and the practical skills needed to work as a mental health professional?
- Does the current approach adequately prepare students for an intersectional, rights-based view of mental health?
- Is psychology training in India still under the thrall of skewed research findings almost exclusively based on a WEIRD – western, educated, industrialised, rich, and democratic – population?
- Ultimately, what in psychology education is working, and what needs fixing?
As a society, we've traditionally pushed our children to become doctors (or engineers). As a result, medical education and its challenges occupy growing space in the mainstream. But how many of us know anything about the life of a psychology student?
We don't care because we don't even acknowledge clinical psychologists and therapists as frontline healthcare workers. The pandemic and the clamour for mental health services is a ringing reminder that our attitude must change. Public apathy towards psychology education has serious implications for the future of mental health care – an increasingly crucial sector within public health.
Since launching Sanity, I have spoken with dozens of students and young professionals who convinced me that it's time to start an urgent conversation on these issues. I want to facilitate that conversation, but I have never studied psychology, and I do not want to impose my parachute journalism on students. Someone from the student community has to take charge.
Here's Devika in her own words
"I am an aspiring mental health professional, currently pursuing MSc in psychology from Indian Institute of Psychology & Research in Bengaluru. I enjoy thinking about books, sloths, and outer space and even occasionally dabble with staring into the existential void.
"I strongly believe that it’s time for conversations about mental health to be centred on a decolonial and intersectional perspective, and was excited to find these core values deeply align with Sanity's.
I am beyond excited to begin my association with Sanity as a student growth manager, to not only spread the word the word about Sanity’s vision but to also create and participate in platforms which talk about these very important issues. You can connect with me on LinkedIn."
How was Devika selected?
Devika was selected via a process involving a written pitch outlining her vision for the project, followed by an interview with me and a founding member of Sanity. We loved her clarity of thought, her curiosity about mental health's intersections with politics, economics, and culture, and her insights into what she and her fellow students need from the ecosystem in order to feel truly empowered.
What will she do?
Over the next three months, Devika will conduct a detailed survey of psychology students that will culminate in a first-of-its-kind report on psychology education in India. She will also mentor me on how Sanity can amplify student voices, and help build a subscriber base among students.
The fun part is, we have agreed that we will go wherever this exercise takes us and not restrict ourselves to narrow predefined goals. Devika will lead this experiment, and I will support her. You will hear more from us as we develop the project, and of course, paying supporters can meet us and share their advice and feedback at our next catch-up, which I will plan shortly.
Thank you Devika. Welcome to Sanity! 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽
I also want to thank the many other brilliant applicants who taught me a great deal over the past three months. Unfortunately I can only afford this one project right now, but I hope to collaborate with more of you this year. Fingers crossed.
Finally, I have to thank every paying supporter of Sanity. Thanks to your subscriptions and donations, I am able to fund this project and offer Devika a stipend.
Which reminds me:
One more announcement
Next week I will be traveling for a consulting assignment. I am beyond nervous about the wild adventures I have to undertake for this, such as boarding a plane, staying in a hotel, and working in an office with other humans. Coupled with the ongoing turbulence in my headspace, I might be too spaced out to send you a new piece. But don't count on it. (I know I know – I was supposed to take more breaks and create a leave policy for myself. I promise I will get to it soon. Meanwhile, do send good vibes so I can survive the week.)