AKU’s Brain to Promote Mental Health Positivity

Synapse – Pakistan Neuroscience Institute, National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), British Asian Trust, and Aga Khan University’s Brain and Mind Institute (BMI) to tackle mental health challenges and empower the youth of Pakistan, Synapse Pakistan Neuroscience Institute, the National Academy of Performing Arts, the British Asian Trust, and AKU’s Brain and Mind Institute joined hands to create a positive and enriching experience for all to celebrate mental health and prioritize wellbeing through positive behaviours, self-care, understanding mental health as a basic human right, its impact on our holistic health and wellbeing through panel discussions, poem segments, policy dialogues, fireside chats with fun and recreational activities that included art therapy, meditation, informative short films, storytelling and creative expression walls.

Jashn e Nur: Celebrating the Light Within, is a one-of-its-kind event dedicated to promoting mental wellness and advocating mental health as a universal human right for all, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic status, culture, ethnicity, and religion.

The event was organized to provide a transformative experience for youth, to celebrate their inner light, empowering them to express themselves without the fear of social rejection and stigmas associated with mental ill-health. Resources on holistic well-being were also provided.

Approximately 20 million people in Pakistan experience some form of mental health condition. In relation to this, adolescent mental disorders is also of significant concern, and the reported prevalence rate in Pakistan is 35%, significantly higher than the global prevalence rate of 10-20%.

Additionally, this mental health festival organized by Synapse, Pakistan Neuroscience Institute with the National Academy of Performing Arts, British Asian Trust, and AKU’s Brain and Mind Institute, symbolized their vision, commitment and values of prioritizing and advocating brain and mental health for all in Pakistan, especially for its adolescents and youth.

In her opening remarks, Ms Falak Madhani, Implementation Scientist at BMI, said, “If the right to mental health is universal, it is the responsibility of the scientific community in Pakistan to develop locally meaningful and acceptable models of building wellness and resilience to prevent poor mental health. We have spent too long adopting Western models that may not suit the diverse cultural nuances of Pakistan’s population.”

Ms Madhani also moderated the Design to Impact: Climate Change, storytelling and Mental Health Panel discussion that consisted of experienced professionals, namely Ms Namra Khalid, Mr Ahmed, Mian, Ms Nusser Sayeed, and Dr Sana Siddiqui.

Mr Junaid Zuberi shared the vision of NAPA and its commitment to incorporate wellness in the design of society, followed by Ms Rabia Nizami, who was the keynote speaker who shared her insights on Youth Mental Health from a human rights perspective, with a fireside chat thereafter by Mr Adeel Azhar. The Youth Circle of Synapse presented a Slam Poetry section, and Dr Ayesha Mian moderated the segment of A Story of Small Changes that featured Ms Tahera Hasan, Mr Omar Shahid Hamid, Ms Rumana Husain and Ms Shaiyanne Malik.

Dr Ayesha Mian said, “The idea of focusing on mental health and wellness, rather than on illness, is to take the discourse upstream towards the social determinants and involve all stakeholders in this discussion. With more than 10% of our population affected by mental health disorders, it is imperative that we focus on large-scale, policy-level solutions. Innovative and disruptive ideas and programs must be promoted that focus on scalable impact. Awareness campaigns that thoughtfully break the stigma and challenge stereotypes would shift the narrative towards prevention and primary-level interventions. A bold national mental health policy is essential, one that courageously and creatively incorporates mental health as a core element in social, government, development, education, health, economic and corporate sectors.”

The festival included fun, engaging activities and stalls in the NAPA courtyard. The audience was also introduced to various ways of practising physical and mental wellness in the form of Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) session, art therapy session, meditation and sound healing, There was a film screening by Taskeen and BMI, Art displays by Ms Ayesha Shariff, creative expression wall where the audience expressed themselves with comments, artwork, poetry and prose, and Food stalls.

The success of “Jashn e Nur” was not possible without the generous support of our sponsors and collaborators. We are proud to have Tapal Tea Pvt. LTD, British Asian Trust, Friends of Synapse, Alfalah Investment, and Pakistan Stock Exchange as key sponsors who share our vision and commitment to mental health advocacy. The festival was well supported by our collaborators, who are making an impact through their relentless efforts for a community where mental health is at the centre of the design. Organizations like Savaira, Center of Inclusive Care, Parindey, Karwan-e-Hayat, Go Read.pk, Taleem o agahi, Aahung, Zindagi Trust, The Garage School, Trauma Release and Wellness Center, Autism Spectrum Disorder Welfare Trust, The Learning Tree, Sabeen Mehmud Foundation, Taskeen, Orange Tree Foundation, Aunty Tashi, showcased the work they are doing and the impact they are making in the space of wellness in the community.

Jashn-e-Nur reminded us that taking care of our mental health is equally important as our physical health, where celebrating and accepting one’s persona is the foundation of positive mental health.


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