Several academics in the UK including renowned psychologist Professor Stanley Gaines are looking into the data gathered with a free lessons series launched by London-based social enterprise Otermans Institute during the first lockdown earlier this year.
From April, they started releasing lessons for a completely free online learning service they created to help support people’s learning needs while they were stuck in the lockdown. Although quite early, there were considerable other online learning options available to people at that time in the West and their lessons were mostly used by people in India. However, one key aspect in their lessons made it stand out because of its ability to support the immediate mental health needs of the learners who were in a period of sudden isolation and restriction. So how did this happen?
According to them a significantly large portion of the population in South Asia lacked an understanding of life skills like CV writing, interview skills, collaborating on projects remotely, and setting tangible goals. More importantly, these skills were easier to teach remotely. ‘We thought that the lockdown would finally give them the time to learn these skills as they were now forced to live indoors with not much else they could do,’ said Dev Aditya, the Managing Director of the Institute.
However, all of their 22 lessons included practice tasks, questionnaires, and activities that learners had to do with their families, or the people they were living with during the lockdown. Users of the free course started reporting that these collective tasks and exercises greatly helped their mental wellbeing by providing a fun activity for all at home. Seeing this trend, Dr Pauldy Otermans who led the development of the training system conducted further investigation directly and through a survey with around 300 individuals out of the 20,000 people who eventually used the learning system.
The current data shows considerable insight into the mental well-being benefits from such a course structure, differences in perception between people living in different locations and settings, and particularly the differences of perceived wellbeing between those living with their families and those away from them. Additionally, some of the data have come from people in Bangladesh and Nepal because of the social media reach of the institute. This may also help develop cross border understanding on the matter. These initial findings have beckoned a vast cross researcher investigation into it both in India and in the UK.
Perhaps most importantly, it is hoped that the ongoing research can generate potential findings which can provide insight that could develop mechanisms to support people in the West. Like other countries, people in the UK are now in need of innovative support for their mental health as the country is slowly entering into the depth of the second wave of the pandemic. Only this time in a gloomier and colder period that can further affect the well-being of its people negatively.