1. Project Overview
The Outlive project, a Youth Advocacy Training Program for Youth Suicide Prevention, is a collaborative effort between Fields of View and the Indian Law Society (ILS), Center for Mental Health Law & Policy (cmhlp.org). The project aims to empower young advocates to address mental health issues and prevent youth suicide through policy advocacy and community engagement. The project objectives are as follows:
Critical Engagement with Public Policies: The program focuses on fostering a deep understanding of public policies related to mental health, governance structures, and the identification of relevant stakeholders.
Developing Pathways for Actionable Participation: Participants will be equipped with the skills necessary to actively participate at different stages of the policy process, including community advocacy, monitoring, and providing feedback.
2. Program Structure and Participants
The Outlive project is a full one-year fellowship program designed for 11 selected advocates from Mumbai, Pune, and Delhi. These advocates have already completed a workshop at ILS Law Campus in Pune, marking the initial phase of their training. The fellowship aims to equip the participants with the necessary skills and knowledge to advocate for suicide prevention initiatives. The curriculum encompasses a comprehensive understanding of mental health policies, as well as the strategies and techniques for effective advocacy work.
The selected fellows are from diverse backgrounds, representing various cultures and languages. They brought their experiences of working with community-based organizations, which further enriches the program’s collaborative and inclusive approach. The age range of the fellows is between 18 and 23.
3. Stakeholders and Intervention
The primary stakeholders of the Outlive project are young advocates who have a vested interest in mental health issues. The intervention involves training these advocates to work alongside policymakers and actively engage in the policy process related to youth suicide prevention. By equipping them with knowledge and advocacy skills, the project aims to create a network of change-makers who can effectively influence policy decisions and promote mental well-being among youth.
4. First Workshop
Timeline: 6th May – 9th May 2023
The first day’s training sessions provided participants with valuable insights into mental health laws and policies, policy cycles, and youth engagement in law and policy issues. The workshop-based activities encouraged active participation, critical thinking, and the development of advocacy skills. Participants gained a deeper understanding of the policy formulation process and their role in influencing positive change. The activities under the ‘74th Amendment act’ and ‘making the city our’ and ‘How do you read a policy?’ curriculum enabled them to envision practical steps to make their city more supportive of mental health and suicide prevention initiatives. Overall, the day was successful in enhancing participants’ knowledge and skills as youth advocates in the field of mental health.
Day 2 of the training program focused on policy analysis, classification of public programs, and understanding the key aspects of policies in the context of youth advocacy. Participants actively engaged in activities that deepened their knowledge and sharpened their analytical skills. The policy landscape mapping exercise encouraged critical thinking and facilitated discussions on the various thematic categories of public programs. Analyzing mental health laws and policies enabled participants to gain a comprehensive understanding of the legal framework. Finally, exploring the key aspects of policies in terms of agency, transparency, resource allocation, equity of access, and implementation challenges deepened their insights into effective youth advocacy. Overall, Day 2 was successful in equipping participants with the necessary skills and knowledge to engage with mental health policies and advocate for positive change.
Day 3 of the training program focused on practical aspects of youth advocacy. Participants actively engaged in activities that deepened their understanding of intervention in public policy processes. The youth advocacy presentation on awareness, advocacy and monitoring, feedback strategies equipped them with a range of methods and tools to effectively advocate for their causes. The mock exercises allowed participants to apply their knowledge and hone their advocacy skills in a supportive environment. The session by Yuwa facilitators showcased successful examples of youth advocacy, providing inspiration and valuable insights. Overall, Day 3 contributed to the participants’ growth as advocates and empowered them with practical tools and real-life examples to drive positive change in the field of mental health and suicide prevention.
Day 4 of the training program focused on developing participants’ facilitation skills for conducting Ondu Kathe Keli (OKK) game play in their communities. Through the facilitation training, participants learned the key principles and techniques for conducting OKK discussions effectively. The practical exercise of facilitating OKK sessions in small groups allowed participants to apply their knowledge and gain hands-on experience in leading discussions. The feedback and reflection session provided valuable insights and constructive criticism to improve facilitation skills. Overall, Day 3 contributed to the participants’ growth as facilitators, equipping them with the necessary skills and confidence to conduct OKK game sessions to gather stories and promote open conversations around mental health and suicide prevention in their communities.
Image 1: Yashwin Explains “How to Read a Policy”
Image 2: Sumit conducts the solemnly resolve game
Image 3: Yashwin and Sumit provide facilitation and training for the Ondu Kathe Keli game.
5) Interim Phase
At the conclusion of the first workshop, we emphasized the importance of fellows engaging with their respective communities and conducting a needs assessment. This assessment didn’t need to be highly detailed, but rather a preliminary one. Its purpose was to identify a specific issue related to their community on which they can focus their advocacy efforts. To engage with their community, we encouraged them to use tools such as Ondu Kethi Keli, focus group discussions, interviews, or surveys. By employing these methods, fellows were able to interact with community members and gain a comprehensive understanding of their perspectives, ideas, and existing support mechanisms regarding suicide prevention. These preliminary needs assessments helped them in gathering a solid foundation for their advocacy work moving forward. The general concept is for the youth advocates to develop their plan, conduct a needs assessment, and then synthesize their findings before the second workshop. They made sense of their assessments in the context of three key policy documents: the National Mental Health Policy, the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. To facilitate this process, CMHLP conducted multiple online sessions dedicated to each of these policy documents in meanwhile. The purpose was to deepen the participant’s understanding of these policies and enable them to identify how the community’s needs align with policy issues. Through these sessions, they found gained insight into how their identified issue fits within the policy landscape and developed a vision for addressing it through their advocacy work. This orientation set the stage for their participation in the upcoming second workshop, where we expected them to arrive with a solid understanding of the policy context and a clear direction for their advocacy efforts.
6) Second Workshop
The second workshop took place from October 12-15, 2023. In the second workshop, our primary objective was for the fellows to define and develop their plan for engaging with policymakers and initiating concrete policy actions. Once they have a comprehensive understanding of the community’s needs, they will be able to establish clear goals, identify relevant stakeholders, and determine how they intend to engage with them. During the workshop, the fellows were encouraged to outline their advocacy strategy and further refine their plan. They were also guided to establish measurable indicators for success, which were incorporated into their plan. Our aim was for them to leave the workshop with a well-structured and actionable plan. Essentially, the purpose of this workshop was to serve as a bridge between their initial needs assessment and their preliminary needs assessment. It aims to involve the communities and identify various concerns, while also providing a framework for their advocacy initiative. This framework will be further strengthened through mentorship and supervision. Therefore, this workshop offered an opportunity to focus on their current practices and enhance their understanding of advocacy. We introduced them to policy and taught them to become more involved in policy discussions. Moreover, this workshop will serve as a platform for praxis building, allowing participants to develop a deeper understanding of their goals within the fellowship.
Image 4: Yashwin Explains “Actor Mapping”
7) Post the second workshop
Following the second workshop, the fellows will have approximately 4 to 5 months to implement their plans with the ongoing support of their mentors. This timeframe allows them ample opportunity to work towards their advocacy goals and make meaningful progress in their initiatives. They will explore the specific issues they wish to address and identify the stakeholders and groups they intend to engage with throughout the advocacy process.
In conclusion, In the first workshop, the focus was on building a strong foundation in advocating suicide prevention in policy level through theoretical and conceptual discussions. On the other hand, the second workshop was more practical in nature, with the aim of translating the knowledge gained in the first workshop into tangible solutions based on the needs assessment.