Special kids participate in a bicycle race in Delhi

October 12th, 2008 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) Gleaming new bicycles along with red, white and green flags that were hoisted all along a race track to tone up a festive atmosphere - yet what shone through was the zeal of fifty special children, who participated in a bicycle race here Sunday morning.Organised by NGO Manas Foundation in partnership with the World Health Organization and the ministry of health and family welfare, the race was part of the campaign to spread awareness about importance of mental health and rid society of stigma against mental disability.

“About 10 percent of children will suffer from a mental health problem at any given time. Statistics of mental illnesses are scary and still within families and neighbourhoods, there is a tendency to feign ignorance about the presence of mental illness,” Naveen Kumar, trustee and psychologist of Manas foundation, told IANS.

“By failing to acknowledge this reality, we perpetuate a vicious cycle of suffering and even shorten life-span for the afflicted people,” he added.

Researches supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have found that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. The study also reveals that untreated mental disorders can result in adversely affecting the severity of mental illnesses.

Suicide has an underlying psychological component, and is among the three leading causes of deaths among those aged between 15 and 44 years in both sexes.

Each year, the foundation celebrates the World Mental Health Day Oct 10 by organising public awareness campaigns. This year, it was in the form of a bicycle race with public participation, to highlight simple activities to overcome stress and promote positive mental health.

“A bicycle symbolises a carefree, stress free disposition, which helps in promoting overall well being. The idea of the 3 km bicycle race was to give the special kids exposure. The kids here are so happy that they were part of a race - today they are in the limelight and I am happy,” said Kumar.

About 300 people participated in the event where four separate races for children with mental disability, children (below 16 years), families of people or children affected with mental health issues had been organised. All the winners were given bicycles.

Gautam Sharma, 15, a student of Class 9, at Balvant Rai Mehta Public School won the race for special children and was given an all-terrain Hero bicycle worth Rs.2,500 as first prize.

Facing the camera - his timid stance could not hide that he was elated. Enjoying the limelight he told reporters: “I won! I am very excited. I had such a great time.”

“I love to cycle, and now I can ride this bicycle in the evenings,” Gautam said pointing at his shiny new red bike.

His father explained that Gautam was a “slow-learner” but was coping well.

“We support all that he does and this prize, this glory was just what he needed to boost his confidence. It’s sad that society often tends to neglect needs of special children like Gautam and does not give them opportunities like the race to prove themselves,” Sharma added.

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