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Women in Dharavi waiting to receive food and sanitation kits in July 2020.
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City alumna supporting mental health in India

Aviva Damania, (MSc Adult Mental Health, 2019), has been involved in a range of initiatives to look after mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

by Shamim Quadir

Aviva Damania holds an MSc in Adult Mental Health from the School of Health Sciences, at City, University of London. Since graduating last year she has set up an online mental health consultancy called ‘The Mind Essentials’, founded at the beginning of this year in her home town of Mumbai, India.

Since the inception of The Mind Essentials, Aviva has expanded the practice with further practitioners, balancing her online consultancy work with a full time job as a Senior Manager in Corporate Wellness at Pittie Group.

She is also engaged with the media in India and has provided advice on looking after mental health to a variety of outlets, particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Recent work includes with Mid-day and LatestLy:

Aviva Damania provides expert tips for keeping mental health in check during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aviva Damania provides advice on how to manage relationships with family and friends during lockdown.

Mental health in the police force

In June, Aviva was also invited to counsel police officers affected by COVID-19 in both Mumbai Police and Thane Police forces. For Mumbai Police she conducted a workshop to train female police officers in basic counselling skills. The goal of the engagement was to maximise limited resources to reach out and help as many police officers and their families affected by COVID-19 as possible.

Food donation drive with the Banyan Tree English School

Dharavi is considered Asia’s largest slum. Located in the heart of Mumbai, it is home to more than half-a-million people living within less than a square mile. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dharavi was one of the worst affected areas in Mumbai, and was declared a containment zone.

However, despite a number of mitigating factors, including social distancing being considered impossible, Dharavi has been hailed as a success story of containing the virus, attributed to prompt action by municipal government and the support of NGOs and local community leaders.

Given that most residents of Dharavi were day workers, the pandemic has meant that many have completely lost their source of income. To support wider efforts, The Mind Essentials, in collaboration with the Banyan Tree English School, identified 100 of the families most in need.

Commenting on the next steps, Aviva said:

The Mind Essentials has decided to donate one month's ration to each family and has also organised sanitation kits for the families. The package each family is receiving contains rice, wheat flour, two kinds of pulses, sugar, tea, salt, cooking oil enough to sustain a family of four for a month. The sanitation kit contains face shield, hand sanitising rub, reusable face mask, washable hand gloves and reusable head cover, all products made by Dabur India Ltd.

Women waiting to receive food and sanitation kits in July 2020.

Established in 2003, The Banyan Tree English School was founded by Aviva’s parents to support families in Dharavi with a kindergarten school and nursery school for their children. It is now a government-recognised school, catering to about 600 students from grades KG to Standard 10. Aviva cites the school as inspiration for establishing The Mind Essentials herself.

Find out more

Visit ‘The Mind Essentials’ website

Read Aviva Damania’s alumni page about what it was like studying at City.

If you are experiencing mental health difficulties in the UK, you can visit the NHS website, for advice on how to get support, including a list of helplines.

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