On August 12, 2014, The United Nations International Day of Youth event was held at the ECOSCO Chamber, United Nations Headquarters, New York. To commemorate the Day, Madhavi Patale, Gal Zeidman, and Dylan Murarka attended the event on behalf of the Brahma Kumaris. The theme of the day was “Youth and Mental Health” under the slogan ‘Mental Health Matters’. The three young people were present to learn about the UN’s perspective on the whole concept of mental health of youth. They were also drawn to the event due to recognizing how the solution to this growing issue begins with a reflective practice of going deep within, experiencing the latent values, and potential of the self which creates a life of unparalleled strength, self-esteem, happiness, and appreciation. The world often battles situations through external approaches and forces; but to improve mental health, a personal and internal process is required that will make lasting changes.
Here are some highlights of the event:
Discovering My Inner Superhero
Imagine being spider man — wearing one mask in the day and taking it off at night. Exhausting, right? Well, let me introduce you to the life of someone suffering from a mental illness. The stigma associated with mental illness is painfully strong, forcing youth to hide their anxiety and frustrations behind fake smiles and two words: “I’m fine.” The continual suppression of feelings lead to suicide. This preventable and horrid way of dying claims 3000 young lives every day and takes the spot as the third leading cause of death for youth. Prolonged depression, feelings of inadequacy, and the impact of traumatic experiences lead to this oftentimes-impulsive action.
In order to prevent suicidal deaths and the resulting destruction of “new energies, potentials and capabilities,” as General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon expresses, society must focus on addressing the root of the problem. However, most funding is directed towards taking care of the outbursts that ensue after years of emotional issues. But this method is inefficient and uneconomical — just as attempting to purify the ocean after an oil spill or attempting to clean the air surrounding a coal-spewing factory: Lives will already have been impacted, and the damage done will prove difficult to change. Therefore, as Ambassador Caleb Otto — permanent representative of Palau — emphasized, more money should be expended in taking “preventative measures” to ensure mental illnesses do not develop into catastrophes. The stigma, or embarrassment, related to mental illness silences people, accelerating fear, depression, loneliness, and anxiety; in other words, stigma causes the growth, rather than the prevention of the problem.
Healing begins with conversation, with storytelling, with expression, and with a strong support-system. Because, as Alicia Raimundo — who playfully describes herself as a mental health superhero — emphasized, “When you are struggling and choose to talk about your mental health, that is not a sign of weakness; it is the sign of strength and resilience.”
Though speaking about mental health can provide relief from having to hide the burden of sorrow inside, some inner, transformative work is required to complete the healing process. As Dr. Catherine Bradshaw — professor at John Hopkins University — said, “Meditation should be infused into educational settings, allowing a healthy mind-body connection to develop,” and emotional control to grow. Young people are not asking for support, but investment. Schools should incorporate teachings that nurture and fulfill the students not only intellectually, but emotionally; this well-rounded education would prevent the build-up of mental illness, a primary hinderer to academic achievement.
After all, as Ahmad Alhendawi — Secretary General for the Envoy on Youth — said, “There is a generation of 1.8 million dreamers aspiring to have a healthier mind”; all they need are the resources and the tools to access the latent strength, qualities, values, and potential within them. This will enable them to discover their inner resilience and strength when faced with chaotic situations and turmoil. As mental health advocate, Jordan Burnham said, that even when trapped in the “dark closet” of a situation or emotion, “one only needs a small crack — that small beam of light to regain hope again.” And what is that light? The radiant nature, qualities, and values glowing within every being. This self-discovery becomes their power as superheroes, as they change the world and build the future with ambitious dreams and practical steps.
- Gal Zeidman
On August 10th 2012, the day began when the skies in Central Park, NY opened up and let out their might. However as soon as 2 o’clock came around, the sun shone brighter then ever and Spotlight Values was there to give a new experience and share the SV project to the people coming by. The tent was set up with pictures, artwork from around the world and balloons with inspirational cards inside. The visitors were asked to identify their personal value or the value that world needs desperately at the present time and draw/paint an image of that value. Two boards of blank paper, quickly filled up as the day went on with drawings and writing about the values and hopes the central park visitors held closest to them.
Monday, June 25
Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Riverside – Summer Camp
Age group : 10 -13 years
Duration : 3 hours
A group of 17 teens were facilitated for a workshop on “Responsibility”. Brainstorming, Discussion was conducted among the kids to understand the importance of responsibility in life. They were also asked to write appreciation letters to parents. Finally Kids expressed their learnings through painting and drawing in posters in teamwork.
Saturday, July 21
Retreat place, Tijuana-Mexico.
Age group: 18-35 years
Duration: One day Retreat
A group 19 young adults gathered for a one day retreat of “Harmony in Relationships”. Various aspects of relationships issues were discussed and facilitated to discover their lost connection with themselves. Young adults were asked to introspect on their own virtues, specialties of the important people in their lives. Games and Activities also helped them to understand the practical appliance of the Godly knowledge.
“I loved the atmosphere and the careful attention to all subjects.”
“the opportunity to see inside of me.”
“the subject is pretty in my life..I think it was a great retreat.”
Tuesdays and Thursdays, July 2012
Gahr High School, Cerritos
Age group: 15-16 years
Duration: 1 hour session.
A group of 8 high school students attended the “Anger management series”. The course was desgined and conducted in a workshop manner. The sessions were interactive and the students were involved in brainstorming and asked often to discuss in groups. By the end of the course, the kids became more open and friendly with their classmates. Effects and Triggers of Anger, Solutions of Anger such as Tolerance, Forgiveness and Peace were covered.
“I was able to learn more about why I get angry”
“I liked how people were basically coming and opening to each other”
“it helps you relax and feel better. Our teacher was amazing, she did help me feel happy better”
“I had the opportunity to learn more about myself”
GREEN OM CAFÉ – Brahma Kumaris Learning Center for Peace – July 26, 2012 – 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Tonight, an intimate group gathered at our Learning Center for Peace to explore how we can make our world a cleaner, healthier, safer and more beautiful place. Seemingly, a tall order, but our Green Om Café delivered.
Supriya, our facilitator, explained the inspiration for our Green Om Café by sharing that our program was designed in cooperation with the Brahma Kumaris Spotlight Values Initiatives with the United Nations. Among their many functions, such initiatives encourage local community gatherings to explore our innate virtues that promote living in harmony with the self, our world community, and our Earth’s resources. Our focus this evening was on our natural virtue of Dignity.
So, how could Dignity promote a green consciousness? To answer this question, we explored some guiding questions: What image comes to mind when you think of Dignity? What does it mean to honor someone’s Dignity, and what practical things can we do to preserve another’s Dignity? What are the practical ways we can honor our own Dignity? With the atmosphere set in a casual café-style setting, we mingled within intimate groups to consider and share our impressions.
Images of world and spiritual leaders came to mind, but also images more personally and locally were remembered – individuals whose influence quietly, yet powerfully, impact others on a personal, direct level. Whether on the world or local stage, we recognized and appreciated the aspects of Dignity these individuals possessed – stable in judgment, patient, compassionate, cooperative, committed, creative, and selfless, to name a few. As we explored and shared, we came to understand that we can only effectively honor another’s Dignity by honoring our own Dignity. We do this by acknowledging our true identity as a divine Soul filled with all the qualities of Divinity. The proof is that we can naturally identify divine qualities it in others.
We shared that to really shift to greener consciousness, we must therefore be committed to cultivating and sustaining these divine aspects in ourselves – Dignity being the overall representative aspect of Divinity. We do this by staying connected via meditation to our Divine Source – God, and in compassionate connection with ourselves by checking our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. Do they reflect our Dignity? If not, we lovingly change course to realign with our true nature. Difficult? Seemingly, but as our café shared, the world outside directly reflects back to us what is life giving and what is not. So, therein, highlights another aspect of Dignity – Responsibility – to others and the environment, and we do this by being directly responsible for cultivating our individual true nature. Otherwise, by rejecting this responsibility, we reject our individual Dignity and that of others and the environment.
We concluded our special gathering by meditating on our true nature and by setting the intention to individually practice our innate wisdom that as We change, so will the World, and All will be nourished by the perfect and sustainable harvest of our Mother Earth.