Chaos. Danger. Addiction. Fear. Trauma. Hopelessness. Delhi street life, even just for a night or two, would leave a lasting imprint on the strongest adult mind.
Aside from their physical, educational and material needs, slowly unravelling the tangled young minds of Delhi's former street children and nourishing them with trust and hope, is part of Salaam Baalak Trust's commitment to the holistic wellbeing of the children in its care.
An important milestone in this came in 2003, with the inception of Salaam Baalak Trusts' Mental Health Programme (MHP), set up under the guidance of Dr Amit Sen, with an aim to bring a structured mental health programme into the outreach and residential care programme it offers.
The MHP provides trained counsellors to the children and young people and includes a referral system encouraging all SBT staff to refer children whose needs for mental health intervention is greatest. Clinical and psychological assessments result in a mix of one-to-one counselling, group therapy sessions, CBT, art therapy and training in coping strategies. Lifelines for children with no parental support.
Image: a group therapy session in a SBT residental home
"I imagine myself as a gardener instead of a shrink, who attends to various human saplings, prunes their anxieties and nurtures their hope." Tushar Kohli, counsellor at Apna Ghar boys' home and the GRP contact point, talks us through his work...
"In a nation where getting two square meals a day and maintaining a roof that doesn't leak is a struggle, mental health perhaps figures on the lowest rung of the social transformation ladder. However Salaam Baalak Trust amazes and continues to amaze with its emphasis on securing mental health for fragile childhoods."
As a counsellor for young minds, I have witnessed countless narratives here that left me searching for a deeper understanding of life. Perplexed by the trauma I saw up close, I was often surprised by the tenacity of the children at SBT. They have managed to fight through circumstances that would leave any adult devastated. They reveal hope where none seems to exist, having lived a sub-human existence in the daunting city of Delhi.
Supervised by a thoroughly creative psychiatrist Dr Sen, I was mentored in the details of Indian psychological and social reality. At SBT I understood how art and play both blossom and unlock the potential of a child. Now, I imagine myself as a gardener instead of a shrink, who attends to various human saplings, prunes their anxieties and nurtures their hope."
You could help to support the life changing work of counsellors like Tushar by making a donation to Friends of Salaam Baalak here.