Wikipedia SWASTHA Kicks off ‘Mental Health Awareness Campaign’

The volunteer-led content platform, Wikipedia, along with a team of experts, has initiated an effort to widely improve articles on mental health and depression in Indic languages as part of a Mental Health Awareness Campaign.

Being one of the most popular sources of information for people, the platform has shared that a spike in online traffic on its suicide articles has been noticed with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the recent death by suicide of a Bollywood actor.

In India, the online traffic on Wikipedia articles on suicide related topics saw a rise of 200% since actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s demise on June 14, 2020.

According to a press release by the platform, with the rising mental health risks, internet has become a medium for many pupils undergoing depression to express themselves or to pursue information on methods of suicide. A systematic review by the British Medical Journal recently showed an alarming association between suicide reporting in the media and resulting suicides. It was concluded that there was an increase in the number of suicides by 8-18% in the next 1-2 months after celebrity suicide reports, and that the information on methods of suicide was associated with an increase of 18-44% in the risk of suicide by the same method.

Since much of the information regarding mental health topics like causes, symptoms and treatments is in English and is more situated in the western context, this initiative is to ‘capture the cultural nuances and societal factors relevant for the Indian masses’. Hence, India needs an actionable agenda to assist individuals

contemplating suicides, or fighting the social stigma associated with discussing mental health.

Abhishek Suryawanshi, Director, Wikipedia SWASTHA, said,

Abhishek Suryawanshi“A recent Google KPMG survey indicates that 9 out of 10 people trust information conveyed in their local languages. Recent media reports about suicide prompted debates on mental health challenges, while traffic to articles on methods of suicide increased multi-fold. We hope that through wider access to credible information in Indic languages, individuals might understand their own condition and challenges better and learn to seek counsel rather than take drastic measures leading to suicide.”

Project SWASTHA, short for Special Wikipedia Awareness Scheme for The Healthcare Affiliates, aims to make critical health information freely accessible to all Indians in their local language. The Mental Health Awareness Campaign is one such initiative that seeks to spread relevant knowledge about mental health while providing authentic and reliable information to tackle social stigma and taboos regarding the subject. Its team of contributors has been actively working on articles such as the Hindi language page which discusses suicide and the steps involved in diagnosing mental health issues.

Articles in Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Urdu and other Indic languages about mental health and depression have been listed on the Wikipedia SWASTHA page, as they need improvement from active volunteers to participate in the initiative.

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