The idea is to begin a dialogue about mental health but not to make it preachy, because no one wants to listen to a lecture.
Mental health crusaders Rachana Iyer and Rohan Sabharwal from Crayon Impact, who have been trying to break the stigma on mental health through different platforms, have now launched India’s first podcast on Mental Health, where they will be speaking with people from across the globe about topics regarding mental health that often get swept under the rug. The podcast follows the launch of a website, Mind in India, also curated by the duo, which is a platform for people to speak about mental health through creative mediums.
“The idea is to begin a dialogue about mental health but not to make it preachy, because no one wants to listen to a lecture. When people come for one of our stand-up comedy nights or for a poetry slam on mental health, they are both entertained and they take something away from it as well,” explains Rachana. Speaking about the need for a platform to speak about mental health, Rohan emphasises that it is not just something that should be spoken about on World Mental Health Day and then forgotten through the rest of the year. “We need to talk about mental health throughout the year, so that Mental Health Day becomes more of an occasion for celebrating the achievements of the year rather than an advocacy platform,” he says.
Rachana and Rohan however, are not the only ones who are bringing mental health issues to the forefront. A regular collaborator with Crayon is Anu Elizabeth. A full-time mother and part-time performance poet, she recently recorded a video as part of Mental Heads, a group of spoken word artists who perform on mental disorders. Her poem Trichotillomania is a raw and honest rendition of the impulse control disorder, which involves pulling out one’s own hair. Though she speaks about very personal topics, Anu says that it is keeping quiet about her mental illness that scares her, not speaking out. “There were so many people who told me not to talk about it, that when I was finally able to channel that into poetry or spoken word, it was freeing,” she admits.
While the Crayon duo and Anu use the medium of poetry to reach out to people, Twitter-savvy Harnidh Kaur used Twitter threads as a safe platform to speak about body positivity, sexual abuse and, of course, mental health. “I think that depression and other mental illnesses are especially stigmatised for men because they have this pressure to be strong and ‘manly’. It was encouraging to see a lot of men come out and talk about their mental illness,” she says, adding that she screened every single Tweet that was added to the thread to prevent any negativity.
Founder of Mind Mantra Anastasia Dedhia looks into an aspect of mental health that is often overlooked —mental health care among the elderly. She spread awareness through workshops conducted in some of the poshest clubs in the city including Bandra Gymkhana and Malabar Hill Club. “An increased life-expectancy among the elderly implies that there are more and more people who are becoming afflicted with dementia or alzheimer’s. Also, simple intellectual companionship is something that is essential,” says Anastasia, adding that Mind Mantra seeks to both provide professional eldercare for dementia and conducts workshops to spread awareness.
Perhaps, as the Mental Heads say in their introductory poetry piece, “the stigma ain’t dead”, but with efforts to create open and candid discussions about mental illnesses, a step towards achieving a stigma-free world has definitely been taken.