Student Support – What It Isn’t and What It Should Be

~depression, the exploitation~

Hello, just another faceless crybaby.

Come have a seat maybe?

on the rickety chair. Keep it anywhere,

but also across my huge desk right here.

Space here isn’t much, unlike your insecurities.

I believe there’s a garden full of trees

where they grow till they ripen

and you pluck them off the branches and syphon

all the depression into a decoction, and come to us

to filter through the murk, and dump the rest on us.

We are not caretakers, here to tend to your imperfections

but the medics, here to save the battalions from certain oblivion.

Yet do not expect the kindness that you need

nor the patience that you desperately plead

So let us fool you into a temporary rapport,

for we indulge in our service and not your support.

We will announce to the world our alliance

for we have to publicize your dependence.

Do you still want that spoon-fed, pocket edition

of instant repair and therapy

that provides comfort against your fatigue?

We cannot promise you that. But what we can

is take in all your nonsense,

with no effect on your conscience.

Run in search of the land of dreams

for the imaginary place you seek

that is closer to treatment

at a coveted paradise.

So go ahead. Spill out all the harboured secrets

but within designated time limits.

We will propel you towards

the welcoming arms of a druggist,

and if you insist for more, it’ll be at your expense.

Also, a pat on the back comes with a personal tax.

~ Sanjay Kumar

There is no doubt that the entire process of mental health support needs to be redefined. The Student Support Centre (SSC), an initiative of the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), is at the forefront of this change. The first of its kind in the country, it was founded to create a better approach to treating depression amongst students, which is pervasive in the 18-30 years age group. The major roadblocks for these students in seeking treatment include lack of privacy, an inhospitable environment, and a lack of long-term support. SSC pays attention to these parameters which greatly influence the treatment process for the clients.

Situated amidst the lush trees of Manipal, a small two-bedroom cottage has been completely renovated and furnished to present itself as a professional health setup while retaining the feeling of home. There are private rooms for every client who walks in. Every client is assured that their personal and academic information will be kept completely confidential. The premises also includes an open yard where students, volunteers, and clients meet to spend quality time during student-related cultural events.

SSC embarked on its journey on April 1, 2017, and recently celebrated its first anniversary. Dr Gayathri Prabhu, who teaches literature at the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, and initiated the project said, “With mental and emotional issues, it is hard for students to come up voluntarily and talk about the challenges they are facing.” Indeed, it is hard to confide insecurities and confessions in a public domain. It often results in an incomplete diagnosis and unhelpful advice.
“What makes SSC different from the regular healthcare set up is that here we offer the clients a private space. Also, there is no pressure on students about payment, because the first visit is free and all subsequent sessions are covered by student health insurance, thanks to MAHE’s support,” said one of the clinical psychologists.

SSC strives to serve its clients with a fresher perspective on the word ‘treatment’. It is better described as a healing process that can take place in a comfortable setting where various options can be explored in consultation with an expert who specializes in supporting this age group.

The Student Support Centre is located near the Indira Block and opposite to the main gate of the New International Hostel, Manipal.

If you or a person in your knowledge is in any form of mental distress, please seek help. More information can be obtained from the website: ssc.manipal.edu

Written by Suhita and Sanjay Kumar for MTTN

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