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Depression – Do You Actually Know It?

This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #LetsTalk to start a conversation on the stigma around depression.

Depression, the word of the week for the netizens of India. Every second post that I look up online is about depression, how to deal with it, how to treat people with depression, how to help. Guidance, phone numbers, name of organizations everywhere but I have a question, I ask you, what do you think depression is? What have you learned from the internet? This question is the most important of all, because your perception of this complicated disease is important for those who suffer from it.

In the most facile terms, depression is sadness. This is unfortunately the most flawed statement that one can make about depression. Sadness is just an element of this convoluted phenomena that we call depression. A depressed person can sombre and yet laugh, it doesn’t mean his or her ordeal is over. Depression is a melancholy so deep that you might be with your family yet feel orphaned. There are days you don’t get out of bed because you just don’t have the energy to do so. It doesn’t mean a depressed person is lazy. Every decision is inflicted by self-doubt and crippled by a low self-esteem. The days are full of apprehensions and misgivings of what will I do because I am already a failure. There are nights where you cry yourself to sleep because the pain does not go away. That pain is something nobody understands because it has no physical manifestation but feels as if someone has cut off an arm. Its pain trapped inside with no way out. Have you seen those cuts on people, you must have because most people notice self-mutilation but never talk about it because obviously, it’s a taboo. Those scars happen because someone somewhere wants the pain to escape, to be relieved of something that person cannot express. You become emotionally vulnerable and extremely sensitive at times but there are also days when you are emotionally numb. Nervous breakdowns, panic attacks and anxiety come along with it most of the times. Your appetite changes, your body changes and you fret over each small thing. You sleep too less or too much and sometimes wake up each day at 3 am from a nightmare and think, why is this happening? Why can’t I just be normal for a day? The drugs that everyone keeps talking about, yes they help but some pills make you drowsy and some increase your appetite and it’s not an easy road. A lot of people skip medicine and trust me they don’t do it on purpose. This is how slowly and steadily people move towards the point of no return, because it becomes too much to bear. So yes, depression is not just plain old sadness.

The way people deal with depression in India goes two ways, either they ignore “it” or they expect you to take a bunch of pills for “it” to go away. Both ways lead to sure disasters. Every doctor that I have talked to says that the drugs are thirty percent of the cure, seventy percent depends on the individual. How is anyone expected to overcome depression when they are made feel like they are carrying the plague? Parents don’t want to talk about it because “log kya sochenge?” and rest of the world, well people have written hundreds of articles about it in past one week so I guess by this time we all already know where that road leads. Irrespective of so many people raising this issue I am sure there are still people who are unable to break their silence. Why? Because it’s hard. It’s hard to accept that you are an emotionally drained adult. It’s hard to trust people at that point and even harder to make them understand when you don’t understand what is happening to you.

To the world I all I have to say is that, be careful, somehow your words and opinion matter to a depressed person if you are someone important in their life. That person doesn’t need anything much from you, just for you to listen and tell them that they can make it. Depressed people often ignore or belittle their achievements, show them that they are capable by just reminding them of what they have done. Sometimes a hug is all they need. They are not clingy or in need of attention, they are just driving the four wheeler of their life with handbrakes on. They are not weak, they are stronger than many of you. They have achieved things in life and are where they are irrespective of the things that have held them back. If you can’t help them or don’t want to, it is fine but at least encourage them to seek help (professional and personal) and don’t tell them it’s a “phase”.Basically, if you cant help them please don’t make it worst for them.

To the people out there who face depression each day, you must seek medical help.We delay medical care in this disease due to various social and personal reasons when this disease could have been curbed in the beginning itself. Depression will not just go away and it’s totally normal to go to the doctor like you would for jaundice. It’s important for you to be comfortable with the doctor you want to see .So take your time and tell your doctor the truth. The pills might be bitter but they work. You might be skeptical about the success stories you see but they are true. In the end you have to pull yourself up and you will do it in time. I suffer from chronic depression. I never thought I would be alive to see the day when I would pursue post grad, but here I am and this is what I hold on to for getting through the next day. It’s a hard life, yes but in the end you will make it to the rainbow. Things get better slowly, they did for me and they will for you. IN THE END IT DOES GET BETTER AND ONE DAY YOU WILL GENUINELY BE HAPPY AGAIN.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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