Mental disorders are on the rise in every country in the world and it is estimated that they will cost the global economy an estimated $16 trillion by 2030. According to the WHO World Mental Health report published in June 2022, depression and anxiety rose by 25% in the first year of the pandemic, bringing the number of people living with a mental disorder to nearly one billion people.
Gurudev, it has been announced, will chair an event at the European Parliament in Brussels on 22 May, hosted by Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, which aims to address and discuss innovative solutions to address and improve mental health that can be scaled up for global impact.
It will debate the interconnection between mental health and peace-building, the latest research on mental health and mental health efforts as a competitive advantage in the workspace.
Shankar advocates for inter-faith dialogue to combat violence arising from “religious fanaticism” saying, “They are not open to any dialogue and violence is their only tool.
“To restrain this ideology, puritanism among religious leaders must be shunned. Instead, they must play a role in imparting multi-religious and multicultural education. When people are given a healthy exposure to the wisdom in other religions, especially from a young age, they will not harbour prejudices against them.”
As soon as the war broke out in Ukraine last year, his Art of Living NGO and International Association for Human Values (IAHV) set up centres for helping displaced families.
In a short period of time, the two organisations housed over 5,000 people, including children, babies and people with special needs, in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Sweden, Netherlands and Germany. A donation campaign was also initiated to fund and supply medication, food and other essential items, providing 11 200 medical, first aid and hygiene kits, medical supplies for hospitals, tons of food material, goods for infants and small children, technical equipment like camping gas stoves, clothes and hygiene products. All in less than a month from the break out of the conflict.
Additionally, since the first week of the war, IAHV has conducted 200+ trauma relief workshops for more than 5,000 people from Ukraine located in more than 20 countries. In addition to refugees, also staff and volunteers who have been supporting Ukrainians during this one year can participate in professional care workshops to prevent burn-out, manage stress and increase their resilience. There are also special programs developed for kids and teenagers.
Ravi Shankar is founder of global NGOs, International Peace Ambassador and recipient of multiple international awards, state honors, doctorates, and appreciations. In the US, more than 25 cities have announced a ‘Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Day‘ for ‘inspiring millions with his teachings and service projects‘.
He comes from the lineage of peace and non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi and has received increased public attention when mediating a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels in 2015 for which he has been conferred Colombia’s highest civilian award.
He has facilitated numerous projects on local, regional, national and international level and has worked with global institutions, multinationals, but also with highly vulnerable, at-risk people and in conflict zones to increase emotional resilience by putting the individual’s mental health at the core of all activities. His work has been driven by the conviction that inner peace and the individual’s mental health and wellbeing are the basis for outer peace and societal prosperity. An estimated 500 million people across 180 countries have been reached by his initiatives.
Named by Forbes Magazine as the 5th most influential Indian in the world, Ravi Shankar is a regular guest speaker at institutions like the EU, the UN and events such the World Economic Forum in Davos where he was last in January 2023, speaking on mental health.
The Art of Living is a UN ECOSOC accredited global NGO and its educational and self-development programs offer powerful tools to eliminate stress and foster a sense of well-being. In 1997, he also founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) to coordinate sustainable development projects, nurture human values and coordinate conflict resolution in association with the Art of Living.
He is also founder of the World Forum for Ethics in Business, a Belgium based foundation pursuing and establishing the indispensable ethical foundations of business in a globalised world.
On the roots of violence, he says, “Nearly every nation is affected by violence and terrorism today. In order to bring peace to our world, we have to understand what the root causes of violence are. When our joyful nature gets covered with stress, our thoughts, speech and eventually our actions are distorted. In extreme cases, this distortion becomes a disorder. Most of the incidents of shootings that we hear, including suicides, involve people with such a disorder. The need today is the methods to relieve stress from society and many studies indicate that yoga and meditation can help”.
Image: By Firoze Edassery – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=115021310