Meet our Mentors: Shivani Jobanputra (she/her)
Interview by Madhumalika Bharani
Would you like to introduce yourself? Tell us where you’re from and a little more about yourself?
Hi, I’m Shivani. I am talking to you from Colombo, Sri Lanka. I’ve been here for 10 years, but originally I’m from Bombay, India. I am a 33 year old mom to an 8 year old. I’m an absolute bookworm! I love reading. I keep telling my daughter that books are our best friends, haha. As an only child, growing up, books actually were my best friends. They gave me the support that I needed. I also love dancing, not necessarily professionally but I love grooving to music. I’ve also always loved kids of all ages. Even growing up, I’ve always wanted to get into this field even if it wasn’t consciously, but now, I love that I’m here and I love what I’m creating!
How is mental health portrayed where you’re from, especially among teens and young adults? Because, in India, it is still a taboo topic and as a result, not a lot of people have the required awareness. It is a real problem.
Honestly, I don’t recall, from when I was a teenager, any talk whatsoever on mental health from any avenue in my life. It didn’t come from my parents, teachers, peers, no one. If I did have any awareness it was from the books I read but it really wasn’t in my radar. But, you know because of the lack of conversation around this topic, I don’t think it was on anybody’s radar in my community or at least within my circles. Now, I feel that there is more conversation happening and I don’t know if it is because of education or more exposure to things but now when I talk to my teenage nieces, they do have the vocabulary of anxiety or depression that they use to spread more awareness which I didn’t do because I didn’t know of those words or of mental health and nor did I reach out. I think this makes such a big difference, you know? You reach out when you have knowledge about what you’re dealing with. So, I do think that even though there’s a long way to go, things have improved compared to how it was when I was a teenager, in the last 20 years.
Unfortunately, Mental Health is not something as common or celebrated as physical health. What is your take on that? Why do you think it is so?
It’s a good question. Why is mental health such a scary topic? You know, maybe because it’s not tangible. People are scrambling to figure out what to do. I mean, if you have a broken leg, you can see the injury, you go to the doctor, figure out what’s wrong, take necessary precautions and solutions and you’ve dealt with it. With anxiety and depression, there isn’t a lot of ailment that is as visible, so if people can’t see what’s going on, they can’t ‘fix it’. Also, the concept of ‘fix it’ in itself is not the right goal here. Unfortunately not everything is fixable, right? The lack of a solution is difficult for people to accept. The lack of education and awareness also plays a role in the mistreatment of mental health.
What do you think about the kind of Representation that mental health is getting today?
I see that there’s a lot more representation today. It is amazing to watch how characters and stories on screen have been more accepting of mental health. We need representation of such topics on public platforms for them to become topics of discussion which could ultimately lead to more awareness.
A lot of parents tend to make the mistake of involving their children in their issues. Do you think that is fair?
I think it depends on how serious the issue is. I mean, if it is something as serious as an issue between the parents that could lead to separation, then including the child in it would cause them to take the emotional burden of the entire situation which is not at all healthy for them. They shouldn’t be dealing with that kind of burden. However, on the other hand, I think children should be asked for their opinion on lighter, age appropriate things. This will show the children that their opinions matter and that they are a part of the family, but DO NOT make them a part of things that are emotionally heavy.
How do you think we can start spreading awareness about Mental Health? What are some primary solutions in your point of view?
Let’s start with parents. Talk to them and keep them in the loop. Teach them the value of having mature conversations with their children. Teach them how guilt tripping and shunning their children away would affect the kids. Also, make sure to include words that describe emotions in their dictionary and take your children seriously when they come and confide in you. Do not look at them or their emotions with your “experienced” or “adult” point of view and shun them away. Acknowledge and validate their emotions. What I’ve been doing here is I just finished a 12 week program with a couple of 7 year olds where we talked about worry and anxiety. So, ACKNOWLEDGE AND VALIDATE their emotions despite their age.
Do you think it is healthy to have these conversations with children when they’re young? And do you think it’s better to do it as they grow up and experience life, like ‘learn from life’ or do we sit them down and teach them everything together?
For any topic, it has to be an ongoing conversation. Try bringing up age appropriate conversations with children, slowly, as they grow up. Children are inquisitive. They want to learn, but we’re so focused on textbook knowledge that we don’t understand how emotionally helpful topics like mental health can be, especially for growing children when they’re trying to make sense of the world and find their place in it. It’s normal for teenagers to pull back from their parents, it is universal, but if you set that base with such conversations and trust, they’re going to come back to you sooner. They’ll want to.
As an experienced adult, from a teenager, for the audience out there, do you think healthy mental health is important for young adults? Do you think teens and young adults also deserve a break sometimes and proper mental health care?
Mental Health care is immensely important for everyone, but especially teenagers. Teenagers have a lot going on that include figuring their lives out and figuring out what is happening for them, biologically as well. It’s such a difficult time! There’s suddenly more responsibilities that you’re taking and these raging hormones. It is necessary for teenagers to have a safe space where they are able to be themselves without judgement and develop into the incredible people they ought to become at their own pace. So, yes, it is absolutely necessary for teenagers to have access to mental health care.
Do you take days off, you know, mental health days? How important are they?
I’m flexible in my work and working for myself can get me too involved in my to-do list. This can get overwhelming, so I take breaks and make sure that I meditate and do things that are healthy for my mental health. It’s not exactly about days off, it’s about constantly checking in with yourself. It’s more a mental health check than a mental health day. So, I’d rather come up with a plan that makes me feel better. It’s more of a re-calibration.
Now about you and Shine From Within. Where did you find us and what was your first impression of us?
I was Googling something about working with kids or mentoring and Shine was the first link to appear. I loved the website! It was so inviting and attractive! It was nice, bright, cheery and so hopeful. I loved reading about the work they did and wanted to be a part of this incredible community.
Here’s one question that’s my favourite to ask (and I heard it first when I joined the Shine community haha). What is your ‘Why’?
I think my ‘Why’ is to create spaces that I would’ve loved to have when I was young. What drives me is just wanting to create these humanising, sensitive, as safe as they can be, non judgemental spaces for young people to be themselves. I want them to know that they are amazing and I want to celebrate how brave they are dealing with so much and still showing up. I want to celebrate young people. I want to reach out and be what I needed growing up, for kids now.
Here’s another question I like to ask. What is one piece of advice you’d like to give your young self?
‘Please reach out, ask for help. Don’t isolate yourself. Accept if somebody reaches out to you.’
Someone once told me something that resonated with me a lot, so much that I teach the little ones in my family that. ‘Your greatest achievement is when you become someone you wanted and needed growing up, to someone else.’ What is your take on that?
Exactly! Because I went through a phase of wanting someone who did for me what I do currently for others, I now feel like that person. I am that person that I needed and I’m so happy and proud about that. It takes time to accept it but it’s an amazing feeling.
Where else can we find you, i.e your socials?
FACEBOOK: SenSelf Coaching
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