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Let Us Talk More About Depression

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Shinedown songs help me, it gives me company. Therapy helps me, it gives me structure. Going to gym helps me, it lets me breathe. Crying helps me. Listening to hard rock, punk rock liberates me.

Depression is subjective. If you look at me, you won’t really be able to realize what goes on in my head – the voices in my head. I don’t know if I am going through a depression clinically. But if you are looking for that, a formal approval, then I can tell you that my therapist has suggested that I am going through a phase of depression. But then, I don’t really think you need a formal certification for my depression.

However, I would like to deconstruct what I am feeling. I deconstruct my feelings by writing. I write this piece for you and for me. I do not write this to look for help and support. I’d appreciate the support I get, but I don’t think unless you really talk to me and if I really talk to you, you’d be able to figure out what kind of help or support you could give me.

Mental health issues have become such a stigma. It might seem easy to suggest that I should talk to someone, or to tell me that I have so many who care about me if I just reach out. But what you might not realise is that I am in a situation wherein I don’t feel like reaching out. The reasons are many. Stigma is surely one. I don’t know how to have conversations about depression at office or with my family. Sometimes, I do become reclusive, not wanting any public interaction. Other times, it is about not having the motivation to ask for help or to move. I feel trapped sometimes. Or rather, I feel like I am trapping myself, stopping myself from looking out or through the dark bubble that I have created around me. I have had multiple days where I haven’t moved a single inch, wherein I haven’t been able to read or write or do the things that would make me happy – the things I would like to do the most. I have had days wherein I have lost all hope. I feel like people would not understand me. My view of the world becomes bleak, murky, and dark. I feel suicidal. I feel like sleeping all the while. I feel like living in my dreams, to never come out of it again. Mornings become scary. My soul feels empty in the mornings, with life all sucked out. I resort to comfort food. Junk food. But I am sleeping and eating well, or a lot at times. My productivity and self-esteem goes way low (I will get to the word “productivity” later on). I become deeply empathetic to all the sufferings in the world. I cry because demonetization killed people. I cry when I see people electing Trump as their president. I cry when I see a movie like Spotlight and relate it to the institutional and political silences around Gujarat riots, around extreme statements by Yogi Adityanath.

I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. Is this all related to depression? Maybe, maybe not. These thoughts and many more are playing in my mind. I fear that my new found awareness of social structures has crippled my mind or constricted it. I fear that I oppress wherever I go because of my privileges.

You’d say, stop being apologetic. You are privileged. You have the money to afford a therapist. Or the economic and social capital to support me. Yes, I know, I know. I am grateful for it. But even with all of that, there is depression. There is hopelessness. There seems no way out at times. Sometimes, depression becomes a state of mind.

The rhetoric I see around generally is all about fighting, struggling, getting support, and working through depression. But most of it is focused on the individual. I have to fight, struggle, get support, work through depression. Partly, I do agree, it is my struggle, my fight. Partly, I disagree. I believe that the society I live in has a responsibility, and this doesn’t get talked about much. I believe that people in positions of power, workplaces, families have a responsibility – the responsibility to care and to try understanding the other without judgement. It is to make spaces for these conversations without jumping to say “I am here”, “Is it that bad?”, “You can talk to me, you don’t have to go to therapy,” without actually understanding what I am going through and what kind of support I would want in that situation. It is for people in workplaces to understand that productivity doesn’t override mental health and support of an employee. It is for individuals and institutions to seek help from outside if they do not know how to respond, it is for them to read up (really read up) on what it means to be depressed. I know that you would want to help sometimes, but your definition of help is not what I would need in a particular moment.

It is to realise that capitalism plays a big role in creating an individualistic, consumerist, productivity-focused, community-lacking, competitive, stressful society. It is the government’s responsibility to provide welfare support for mental health issues. It is to understand and address how and why individuals have varied access to mental health support based on their social and economic positions in the society (caste, class, gender, religion, sexuality etc). It is to change our view on therapy and delimit our understanding on what therapy entails, that one goes to therapy for a variety of reasons. It is to know that while the World Health Organisation says poverty and unemployment are major causes of depression, it does not provide remedies or directions that address the causes. It is to critique the idea that mental health support is expensive and push for the idea that it needs to be subsidized by the state. The media also has a responsibility to address and critique the social situation that leads to so many suicides and not do it just around World Health Days.

I want to imagine a new society wherein we actually support and care for each other. Wherein we practice nurturance culture at every step, where the mental health of employees matter when it comes to looking at a company as being “profitable”, wherein we change our definitions of productivity. We have to support the ones individually struggling constructively. We have to build support systems for others wherever we are and make spaces for thoughts to be shared and feelings to be understood. I am sorry that many of us might have had a bad upbringing, a bad childhood, a bad relationship, a bad economic or socio-political situation. But maybe some of us can change that, both for ourselves and for others. Let’s continue to talk about depression even after the World Health Day. Let’s break this stigma bit by bit and hold all the pillars of the constitution and the people around us responsible for both the causes for and responses to depression. Lets fight for ourselves and for others, together.

P.S –

As far as my depression is concerned, I am dealing with it quite well, thanks to the things I talked about in the beginning.

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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.

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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.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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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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