The world is facing an unprecedented rise of depression, suicide and mental health issues. 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.
To address some of the current challenges related to mental health, a Think Tank will take place at the European Parliament in Brussels on 22 May, hosted by MEP Ryszard Czarnecki and chaired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The Think Tank will address and discuss innovative solutions to address and improve mental health that can be scaled up for global impact, 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.
1. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar is an Indian Guru, born in 1956 in Papanasam in the state of Tamil Nadu. He is referred to with the honorific title of Sri Sri and sometimes also Guru ji or Gurudev.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian, spiritual leader and an ambassador of peace and human values. Through his life and work, Gurudev has inspired millions around the world with a vision of a stress-free and violence-free world. He has been a global advocate for mental health for over 43 years and, during this time, 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. Through his projects, Gurudev has reached an estimated 500 million people across 180 countries.
He founded the Art of Living as an international, non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization. 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. In India, Africa and South America, the two sister organizations’ volunteers are spearheading sustainable growth in rural communities and have already reached out to 70,000 villages.
He is also one of the founders 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.
2. Mental health and spirituality
Being an advocate for mental health for almost half a century, Shankar’s 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.
Some depression may be because one is hanging onto the past or is over-ambitious and anxious about the future. Life, however, is a continuous process of teaching one how to let go. Change is the only constant.Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“When one does not acknowledge the phenomenon of change, and becomes stuck to a position, then one can experiences frustration, depression, and so on”, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar explained for HuffPost. “Often, you are not aware that you are connected with the whole universe, and you think you are just some small person wanting small little things. How do we get out of this small mind? We must look to enquire into the core of our existence. What is life? Who am I? What do I want? This spirit of self-inquiry can awaken something inside you. Negative emotions can make you sink into depression, and wisdom of the Self can take you out of depression.”
According to Gurudev, meditation and breathing techniques are the tools that can help a person calm their mind and make them “feel happy from within”. He has established the breathing practice of Sudarshan Kriya, which came to him “like a poem, an inspiration” after a ten-day period of meditation on the banks of the Bhadra River in Shivamogga, in the state of Karnataka. “I learnt it and I started teaching it”, he revealed in an interview with Reader’s Digest.
Breath is the main source of prana – the vital life-force energy. Prana is the very basis of health and well-being for both, the body and mind. When the prana is high, one feels healthy, alert and energetic.Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“Our breath has a great lesson to teach us, which we have forgotten. For every rhythm in the mind, there is a corresponding rhythm in the breath and for every rhythm in the breath there is a corresponding emotion. So, when you cannot handle your mind directly, through breath you can handle it better”, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar advises.
Sudarshan Kriya harmonizes these rhythms of the body, mind and emotions with those of Nature, Gurudev says. Then, being in sync allows people to experience better health and joy which in turn brings harmony in their activities and relationships. Thus, the breathing technique “facilitates physical, mental, emotional and social well-being”, being an integral part of the Art of Living programs.