PhD student receives Queen’s Young Leaders award

Shivani Mathur Gaiha, a first year PhD student at the School, has been Highly Commended as a runner-up by the Queen’s Young Leaders Award.

The Award celebrates extraordinary people aged 18-29, selected from across all 53 countries of the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.

Shivani is a health communication practitioner who has spearheaded a number of different community-based initiatives on a range of health issues while working at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). PHFI is a public private initiative aimed at strengthening research, capacity, training, advocacy and communications and policy development in the area of Public Health. Through her PhD, Shivani is exploring the effects of a youth-led arts programme to break the silence and stigma around mental health in India.

She will be examining the effects of an innovative programme in India, where art is developed by young people and showcased, using entertainment-education and peer education techniques, to improve the knowledge and attitudes of both these young people and their peers.

Through the Award, Shivani will be given mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as access to online learning resources from the University of Cambridge, which will help her develop her important work.

Shivani said: “I’m thrilled to have been Highly Commended as a runner-up by the Queen’s Young Leaders Award. Global covenants and national programmes for mental health call for change in attitudes, but much remains to be done. Lack of understanding and stigma are overwhelming barriers in seeking help for mental disorders. Half of all diagnosable, lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 75% of all lifetime cases start by age 24.

“Counselling services and seeking treatment at institutions are major taboos, with people living with mental disorders often encountering discrimination. India’s young people are a beacon for action in this interplay between health and behaviour, as they turn to each other for advice, acceptance and support.”

Shivani’s current research in the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health is supported by the PHFI-UKC Wellcome Trust Capacity Building Programme.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme was established by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. It is run in partnership with Comic Relief and the Royal Commonwealth Society, in honour of the Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth.

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Photo 1: Convening Uniting Hearts and Minds – a festival of creative expression exploring mental health by young people in New Delhi (with PHFI and Kriti team), in partnership with the National Mental Health Programme, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Credit: PHFI

Photo 2: Discussions with health facility staff to interpret communication challenges related to healthcare service delivery in Madhya Pradesh. Credit: PHFI