A helping hand for youngsters

A helping hand for youngsters

When Rohan, a school-going teenager in Tumakuru, found himself spiralling into the depths of alcoholism, his worried parents and teachers couldn’t figure out what to do. His grades were falling and his health started to fail too. But fortunately for him and his family, there was a ray of hope in the Yuva Spandana Kendra in the city. The Yuva Spandana counsellors quickly sprung into action and directed him towards deaddiction camps and helped him rise above the illness to lead a happy life.

Similarly, when Prateek was shifted from a Kannada-medium school to an English-medium college, he found it extremely difficult to adjust. When his parents couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t talk anymore, his grandmother reached out to Yuva Spandana for help. The trainers once again jumped into action and counselled him till he was confident enough to face the world. These are just some examples of the wonderful work of Yuva Spandana, an initiative run by the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports, Government of Karnataka and implemented in collaboration with Centre for Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).

A boon to many youngsters struggling to gain a footing in life, Yuva Spandana is in simpler terms, a counselling centre. Aimed at the youth in the State, this programme, as Dr Pradeep Banandur, associate professor at the Centre for Public Health, NIMHANS, puts it, “is youth-friendly, youth-sensitive, youth-oriented and youth-driven.” The target age group of beneficiaries of the programme is 15 to 30 years. “Yuva Spandana provides support for any youth issue, be it behavioural, mental, social or psychosocial. This support is through guidance or counselling centres called Yuva Spandana Kendras, which are situated in every
district stadium in Karnataka,” adds

Dr Pradeep. The Yuva Spandana programme enlists the help of master trainers called yuva parivarthakas and youth facilitators called yuva mithras, who reach out to those in need. The main aspect of this programme is that a majority of the trainers are young (under 40 years), which eases the process considerably.

Terming the youngsters the future of the nation, Dr Pradeep explains how important it is to focus on them. “This is why the Karnataka Youth Policy 2012 earmarked a specific area focusing on youth empowerment and skill development.” The initiative began in April 2014 but began actual counselling in October 2016. “We wanted to make sure we had our initial research and preparations in place before we embarked on counselling. We conducted many research programmes to understand the common issues bothering youngsters,” explains Dr Pradeep.

Counselling sessions
So, what troubles our youngsters today? It turns out a wide range of issues have young kids worried and hassled — health and lifestyle issues, sexuality, gender problems, relationship issues, personality development insecurities and many more. It’s a simple system: when kids go through certain problems, they reach out to Yuva Spandana, and the team offers free counselling sessions, sometimes to their families too. If need arises, the counsellors direct them to higher centres of care.

The programme, as of December 2016, has reached 6,69,708 youngsters through 3,903 sensitisation programmes conducted all over the state. About 10,592 organisations have been resource-mapped and 4,635 youngsters have received guidance. They have trained around 300 yuva parivarthakas and yuva samalochakas (counsellors) under the programme. “Initially, they are hesitant. However, our yuva samalochakas and yuva parivarthakas are well trained to make them comfortable and build a rapport with them. The youngsters become comfortable very fast and then they start opening up,” states Dr Pradeep.

Renuka S is one such trained apta samalochaka at the Yuva Spandana centre in Vijayapura. A big fan of social work, Renuka finds herself encountering youngsters with all kinds of issues every day. “We conduct research in the schools and colleges to understand the kids better.

Then follow awareness programmes that explain how, when and where the youngsters can avail the services of Yuva Spandana. When an issue first comes to me, I make detailed records of the kid in question, his or her’s family culture and his or her’s upbringing. And only then, I offer the youngster some advice. I have even had women coming in to enquire about how to get loan facilities for their start-up businesses and couples hitting a rough patch looking for some kind of help.”

Unlike communicable diseases, psychological problems don’t involve doctors prescribing medications. Here, nothing is a ‘disease’. If anything, there are only issues or barriers to overcome. And Dr Pradeep says the term ‘cure’ takes a transient shade here. No one can guarantee 100% cure to such problems, but the youngsters definitely can expect a channel to vent out their feelings and insecurities.

What makes Yuva Spandana unique is its target group. While we do have programmes for the elderly and the middle-aged and toddlers in place, the youth is a group that has been long neglected. But with this programme, it looks like the State is finally experiencing change, one youngster at a time. To know more about the initiative, contact the local Yuva Spandana Kendra located in  your districts.

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