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.
About the Organizations
Synapse is Pakistan’s neuroscience institution and a hub of professionals working together on diverse ideas to converge the understanding, treatment, enhancement and advancement of Pakistan’s brain and mental health. Our mission is to build a safe space where you can challenge the assumed and established worldviews. With healthy dialogue, we can change the perspectives that harm many. Our current vision is to create an ecosystem to bridge the gaps between the world’s perception of mental health and reality. We are building such an ecosystem by covering a broad range of mental health services and focusing on the brain with our neurology and internal medicine services. Mental Health Matters at our neuroscience institution, we diagnose and treat brain and mind conditions in both children and adults. Whether it’s hereditary or developed later in life, our consultants can help pave the right and peaceful path to recovery and management. We are working to help individuals rediscover themselves through a number of therapies, workshops, and even speaking engagements. (from their website)
National Academy of Performing Arts
The National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) is Pakistan’s foremost performing arts organization, presenting world-class theatre and music programming and the country’s only national arts academy educating students in theatre and music. To be an institution of excellence that provides quality education rigorous training, and is a catalyst for creative expression in the performing arts. A society that cherishes, respects, and encourages creative expression through the arts, especially the performing arts. (from their website)
British Asian Trust
The British Asian Trust was founded in 2007 by the former Prince of Wales and a group of British Asian business leaders to tackle widespread poverty, inequality and injustice in South Asia. British Asian Trust is a diaspora-led international development organization, delivering high-quality programmes in South Asia and specialises in and champion the use of social finance products to drive positive change across the region. Pakistan has a growing mental health crisis, with an estimated 50 million people experiencing mental health issues but unable to access support due to stigma, awareness and lack of services. To address this critical need, we have been working to improve the lives of people with mental health issues in Pakistan for over a decade to not only help those in need but to change the mental health landscape fundamentally. (from their website)
Brain and Mind Institute
The Brain and Mind Institute (BMI) at the Aga Khan University operates in East Africa and Central/South Asia. BMI’s ethos is to span from neuron to the neighborhood, and across multi-country campuses. The operational model is to empower and strengthen neuroscience and mental health research and interventions through capacity building and partnerships, connecting the rich tapestry of academics, research entities, stakeholders, and communities of lived experience. BMI facilitates interdisciplinary research, education and innovation in mental health and neurosciences. Through transdisciplinary research approaches, BMI aims to impact the lives of people who are affected by debilitating neurological and mental health problems. Whether it is uncovering the causes of illness or advancing breakthrough research into treatments or interventions, BMI’s approach is always mindful of the local needs of the people and communities at risk.
Taskeen (Urdu: “to comfort”) Health Initiative is a non-profit whose vision is to change people’s attitudes and behaviours towards mental health and wellbeing in Pakistan through awareness, education, expression, and advocacy. The organization prioritizes promoting mental health and preventing mental illness in Pakistan by increasing mental health awareness, providing accessible mental health services, and advocating for mental health policy change in Pakistan. Their awareness program educates people about mental health and reduces stigma against mental illness through social media, mass media and community-based campaigns and interventions. Moreover, their advocacy programs bring about mental health policy change in Pakistan by establishing and managing mental health coalitions, launching mental health advocacy campaigns, and engaging policymakers. (from their website)