Like so many others, Husnal Bhasin '23 had her life upended by COVID-19. In March, she had to leave Bryn Mawr and return home to New Delhi, where strict public health measures severely limited day-to-day activity.
However, Husnal was still able to use her time at home to breathe new life into existing mental health work she’d done and to even, along with other Mawrters, start some new projects.
In high school, Husnal created a community development project about mental health, called FINE, which focused on normalizing the discussion of mental health issues in India.
“‘I’m fine’, what a paradoxical phrase,” says Husnal. “I’ve always been surprised as to why people in a civilized society like ours would hesitate to express their true state of mind. Why do we always feel this pressure to look happy, answering the often asked 'how are you?' with an automatic 'I’m fine’?”
As part of FINE, Husnal worked with people living in slums, old age homes, and schools for the underprivileged to help them express themselves through art. She created a public art installation: a massive figure shrouded in black—representing depression—surrounded by “happiness." The installation was placed in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls, and Husnal encouraged onlookers to color happiness/draw happiness with colors on paper to overshadow the darkness.
She also developed a business plan for an online art therapy platform that allows people to showcase and sell their art, and a large scale depression screening and awareness program in New Delhi.
This summer, Husnal has expanded the project further. She attended multiple webinars on mental health and self-care strategies during the pandemic and virtually interned at Fortis Hospital to learn more about art therapy and mental health.
In addition to her work with FINE, Husnal participated in two research opportunities facilitated by UNICEF. From June 15 to July 5, Husnal worked with two other Mawrters, Khushi Jaising '23 and Nayantara Batra '23, to prepare a research proposal for the UNICEF Youth Research Program about the perceived stress levels of students in secondary education institutions.
The project will analyze how student stress is impacted by the lack of infrastructure in public schools, especially in the context of the pandemic. She is also helping raise awareness and engage young people/youth as a global outreach champion about/for the soon-to-be launched UNICEFs Global Development Commons, which will be a crowdsourced digital platform revolving around child-focused sustainable development goals.