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Feeling Valentine’s Day blues? Talk to experts for free

Prayas Health Group has started an initiative to offer non-judgmental, empowering, self-reflective and technology-assisted spaces to the city’s youth.

FOR SOME teenagers and young adults, the pressure of having a “special someone” to celebrate Valentine’s Day (February 14) may just get a bit overwhelming while those in relationships organise special outings with their loved ones. To help them – especially the city’s unmarried youth – cope with their emotions, an intervention project has been initiated by Prayas Health Group. Non-judgmental, empowering, self-reflective and technology-assisted spaces (NESTS) will be provided to the youth under the initiative.

The service free of cost and prior appointments with trained counsellors are required.

Prayas Health Group is committed to generating evidence-based discourse on emerging issues in sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organisation is actively involved in socio-behavioral and epidemiological research apart from providing clinical and counselling services to youngsters and people with HIV.

“Young adults, contrary to the common belief that they enjoy a healthy life, experience significant burden of disease and feel vulnerable, especially on issues related to sexuality. Emerging research, including our recent study ‘Youth in Transition’ among unmarried youth in Pune, highlights several rising needs of the young adults,” Dr Shirish Darak, senior researcher at Prayas Health Group, told The Indian Express.

“There are very few spaces where youngsters can raise their concerns. The adolescent-friendly health clinics, established as part of the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram, are restricted for people under the age of 19. They are located in the medical facilities and are poorly accessed by young people,” Dr Darak added.

Prayas Health Group started a project, NESTS For Youth, in 2019. Trained counsellors talk to youngsters about their concerns under the project. “So far, we have conducted around 400 sessions with close to 300 young adults (54% men, 40% women, 6% other gender or gender non-conforming) and realised that just providing compassionate and non-judgmental hearing and asking a few questions are enough for many people to reflect on their issues. This way they get the strength to deal with their problems,” Dr Darak said.

“It can get overwhelming at times while dealing with social life, friends, crushes, attractions, intimate partnerships and breakups. Our `Youth In Transition’ study showed that there is a need for a confidante who will lend an ear without any judgment to help figure out things,” he added.

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Rapidly changing external environment and peer norms, asymmetry in relationship expectations, lack of support from family and stigma of premarital relationships can increase the vulnerability of young people to deal with issues related to sexuality, Dr Ritu Parchure, senior researcher at Prayas Health Group, said.

The range of issues that youngsters experience may not be restricted to physical health complaints such as HIV/STI, or unwanted pregnancies but can get intertwined with social and psychological issues such as decision to engage in sex, dealing with abuse, break-up, depression and self-harm among others, Dr Parchure pointed out.

“People approached us for various issues such as problems in relationships or sexual life, confusions about taking certain decisions, frustration over external situations and anxiety and depression over gender and sexual identity among others. Not only there is a need for such interventions but also, we should de-medicalise psycho-social and sexual health support to people and ensure non-judgmental outlook,” Dr Darak said.

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