Kolkata: Teenagers calling teenagers! As mental health issues continue to seep into our lives every day, the urgent need for an easily accessible data-rich platform for self-identifying triggers, symptoms and other facets becomes even more critical. Enter “Mentica”, a platform developed by a group of Kolkata teenagers to provide professional, well-researched, digitally safe and real-world environment for individuals – especially young boys and girls – to address their individual mental health issues.
Three years ago, Vaani Goenka, a student of Modern High School, started noticing the layered mental issues teenagers around her were facing. She realised the sheer lack of relatable, simple-to-use and well-researched online tools for them to identify early symptoms of the mental illnesses affecting them. “I noticed the convoluted issues that teenagers were facing in terms of mental wellbeing. It wasn’t just them … it was me, too, exposed to various kinds of stressors and challenges in our environments. Most of us struggle to deal with our emotions and reactions and tend to adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms like indulgence and denial,” mused the 17-year-old.
She then created a team from students who shared her vision (classes 9 to 12). Soon tasks – from coding and web development to research to offline event coordination and even conducting mental health workshops – were delegated among the all-girls team. The band of girls were driven by the need to create a safe space for teenagers to find support, guidance, and hope, aware of how academic stress, social media comparisons and family dynamics were just a few examples of the complex issues their peers had to navigate daily.
And Mentica, a free and comprehensive platform, with an innovative diagnosis system that follows the DSM-5 guidelines (Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), was launched. It has been developed in collaboration with professionals, garnering praise for its accuracy, efficiency, and helpfulness, offering 150-odd online resources, curated to address a wide range of challenges encountered by teenagers – from self-help guides based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to emotional regulation tools like the feeling wheels, the online platform strives to provide unique and practical solutions. With over 10,000 plus visits already and 7,000 plus resource users (4,400 of whom are regular visitors), the platform is now a popular destination across the country.
Being a coder herself from the age of 14 and the founder president of her school’s coding club, Vaani understood the importance of proper use of innovative technology. “Our online journaling system tailored to specific conditions. Users can select their focus area and receive prompts to guide their journaling journey. With a collection of over 100 prompts, these are designed to encourage self-reflection, self-help, and self-love,” she said, adding, “We provide a comprehensive directory of trusted mental health professionals. The directory serves as a valuable resource for users seeking professional assistance.”What started off as one girlchild’s journey to make a difference for her peers and the underprivileged has grown to become a popular destination for those in need of help. The team has conducted over 250 workshops for underprivileged individuals in the age bracket of 10-35 on basics of mental health, distributed handbooks in various languages as well as collaborated with other such organisations.
Asaawari Sahai, 14, a class 9 student who was a part of the web development team, said, “I’ve learnt so much while conducting research about various mental health disorders, I am able to understand my peers and often what they are going through with a whole new perspective now.”