On the 4th of October 2021, SIU students and their parents had the opportunity to interact with the head of Symbiosis Centre for Emotional Wellbeing (SCEW), Dr Girija Mahale, and her peers, Ms Priyanka Bajaria and Ms Akshadha Shinde. During the hour-long session on “Gender, Sexuality and Mental Health,” the students, and, more importantly, their parents picked up crucial values and guidelines concerning all aspects of gender and sexuality and their impact on emotional health.
Dr. Girija dove into the session by emphasising the SCEW approach of destigmatising the area of mental health; educationalising about the factors that influence mental health; and demedicalising the approach using a whole variety of therapy. She made the session comfortable and inclusive, and spoke in both Hindi and English. “Sexuality is a part of who we are, and it is ever-evolving,” she said as she demarcated the differences between gender, sex, and sexuality. The environment she created made the session very easy to grasp and accept for everyone. Interestingly, she compared the concept of gender to a telegram service trying to survive in a digital world, which made sense to see how unaware most of us are about the same. Before playing a video on how gender impacts financial decisions, Dr. Girija gave us something to ponder upon, “Sex lies between your legs, but gender lies between your ears.”
Dr. Girija then handed over the session to Ms. Priyanka, who spoke about sexuality. “Sexuality is so much more than your body parts or the mere act of having sex. It is you, and how you feel”, she said while illustrating different types of sexualities. She brought out the way we are conditioned not to have any relationship with our feelings regarding sexuality or our sex organs, which results in hindering the process of self-discovery, often making it difficult for many to be comfortable with it. Lastly, Ms. Priyanka tried to explain how much of an internal conflict a person faces when they are denied the right to explore and accept their sexuality since childhood. She emphasised sexual awareness and how imperative it is for parents to have an open and friendly talk about their children’s sexuality.
Ms. Akshadha, then, took over the session to focus on consent and sexual harassment. She differentiated between consensual sex and everything that is not. Ms. Akshadha acknowledged the sensitivity of the topic and dealt with it with appropriate care. Shedding light on the statistics demonstrating the impact of harassment on mental health, she highlighted the legal differences between different types of harassment.
In its entirety, the session was an eye-opener for a lot of parents and students. The session ended with a Q&A session and a small takeaway message highlighting “small changes to help support the mental health of all genders.”
The session culminated in Dr. Girija and associates providing their contact information for students to connect with them easily and avail the facilities provided by SCEW.