KARACHI: Parindey, a youth-led private entity dedicated to mental health and counseling, organized the inaugural Guftugu Resilience Conference at Sindh Madrasatul Islam University (SMIU) in Pakistan. The conference, an integral component of the Guftugu program, aimed to foster discussions on mental health and resilience within the realm of Pakistani academia. By establishing wellness clubs and welcoming esteemed figures from the social and educational sectors, the event successfully shed light on the pressing need to address mental health concerns among the country’s youth.
The Guftugu program is a comprehensive five-month initiative designed around mental health and wellbeing in academia and to empower young people and tackle the various social, economic, and psychological factors that impact their mental well-being. Currently operating in SMIU, NED University, and Mehrghar-Lyari, Guftugu’s social internship program has engaged 128 students, who are being trained to become advocates and organizers for the mental health and well-being of their peers. Founder of organization, Sonal Dhanani believes that Mental health wellbeing clubs act as early intervention mechanisms, identifying and addressing potential signs of distress and radicalization. By providing a safe space for students to express their concerns and seek support, MHWCs enable timely interventions, preventing individuals from being further isolated and reducing the risk of radicalization. This proactive approach can mitigate the potential harm caused by extremist ideologies and help individuals navigate their emotional and psychological challenges effectively.
The Conference witnessed the celebration of the three wellness clubs at SMIU, NED University, and Mehrghar-Lyari, marking a significant achievement. Esteemed figures, including Ms. Sabina Khatri- CEO and Founder of Kiran Foundation, Mr. Shamez Mukhi- Director of Student Life at Habib University, and renowned musical figure Saif Samejo- Singer and Founder of Lahooti Melo, graced the event with their presence.
The conference brought together over 200 students from the three wellness clubs and other university students. The event kicked off with an energetic workshop on Resilience and the future, conducted by the talented Maalik Khaskeli. Following the workshop, Ms. Sabina Khatri delivered a thought-provoking talk on the need for a Trauma-informed educational system, emphasizing the necessary changes and sharing her inspiring journey with Kiran Foundation.
One of the conference’s highlights was a panel discussion titled “Thoughts around Mental Health in Academia,” moderated by Arisha Wadani. The panel consisted of esteemed experts in the field, including Mr. Shamez Mukhi- – Director of Student Life at Habib University, Dr. Sana Siddiqui- Consultant Psychiatrist at Synapse, and Ms. Anum Shakil- Head of Art program at Zindagi Trust. Together, they delved into the needs, gaps, and understanding of mental health in universities, colleges, and other educational institutions. The panel discussion garnered a positive response from the audience, encouraging valuable insights and discussions.
A unique segment of the conference featured project pitching by the three wellness clubs, presenting their initiatives for a small grant opportunity. A panel of experienced and critical judges, including Mr. Abeer Ul Haque- Consultant Psychologist, Tooba Tahir- Mental Health Advocate, Samana Qaseem- Student Affairs professional, and Khushboo Rafiq- Lecturer at SMIU, evaluated the 11 project pitches. The panel provided feedback, ideas for better implementation, and allocated small grants to support the activities of each wellness club. The segment took place in the scenic and historical gallery of SMIU.
During the Guftugu Resilience Conference, a surprise guest appearance by renowned singer and Lahooti Melo founder Saif Samejo enthralled the audience. Samejo’s session on “Arts for Resilient Spaces” received a warm welcome as he highlighted the role of art in promoting discussions on mental health and fostering resilience. Guftugu’s initiatives, including the establishment of wellness clubs and open conversations on mental health, aim to challenge stigma, promote acceptance, and create a better society. The Guftugu alumni will play vital roles as advocates, organizers, and practitioners.