Salama Minds: An organisation on youth well-being by Khushbu Kotak | Aga Khan Academies

Salama Minds: An organisation on youth well-being by Khushbu Kotak

15 March 2021

Salama Minds, or well-being of the minds, is an organisation founded by Khushbu Kotak, a Diploma Programme 2 student at AKA Mombasa. It aims to dismantle the stigma around mental health in Kenya by providing affordable and accessible therapy sessions to individuals between 11 and 22 years, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds. 

“Our mission is to do away with the negative stigma and taboo that surrounds mental health and therapy sessions,” Khushbu said about what prompted her to start Salama Minds. “It’s very important for young people to be nurtured in a safe environment in which they are not afraid to reach out and express themselves freely. The youth also need to be taught that supporting one another is critical in growing an ethically responsible community.”

Despite a growing awareness of the significance of counseling for young people of all backgrounds and situations in life, the negative perception still makes some people hesitant about reaching out for help. Consequently, Salama Minds has been holding meetings with parents to sensitise and encourage them to give counselling a try for the well-being of their children.

Salama Minds works with some of the best local psychiatrists and psychologists to provide young people a counselling platform for their mental and emotional health. The organisation compensates for therapy sessions, and medication if needed, through donations from sponsors and fundraisers like car washes and fetes for those who cannot afford. So far, 11 people, two of whom are minors, have benefitted from the programme.

“The burden of mental health issues among young people can not be ignored, especially since this is the period many psychiatrists disorders begin to manifest,” said Psychiatrist, Dr Linda Nyamute. “A programme like Salama Minds that targets young minds and offers these services to people who may not have otherwise received help, goes a long way in bridging the mental health gap we are faced with currently.”

Khushbu’s long term vision is to expand Salama Minds beyond Kenya as she feels more young people could use the help. As a start, Khushbu, who is a fellow of the Global Citizens Initiative (GCI) Fellowship programme, which empowers global citizens from all sectors of society to be lifelong leaders of positive change, plans to pitch her organisation at the GCI Leadership, Ethics, Advocacy, Design Thinking (LEAD) Challenge in July 2021 where she has received a scholarship of USD $950. At present, Khushbu’s mother, Nisha Kotak  the Chief Operating Officer – and AKA Mombasa alumni, Zaena Mbugua  the Chief Marketing Officer  are helping her run the organisation to achieve the goal of making a difference in the lives of more young people around the world.

“I plan on making the organisation international because therapy is expensive and we would like to reach out to those who cannot afford therapy, but need it. We also plan to continue educating parents on the importance of seeking help for their children when they need it. Therapy isn’t something one should be ashamed of at all.

Although Khushbu said she knows it won’t be an easy road, she will take every challenge head on and use it as an opportunity to grow her organisation. “I continue to believe and learn that every failure I encounter is enroute to success,” Khushbu said. “With every obstacle I have overcome, I have learned more and more about the way my community works and how to improve my organization in a way that is beneficial to the community.”