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What To Say To Someone Dealing With Depression (And What Not To Say)

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This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #LetsTalk to start a conversation on the stigma around depression. If you have an opinion or personal story of dealing with or helping someone else deal with depression or suicidal thoughts, write to us here.

Depression: A Parallel Dark World

Depression is a ‘dread’ and this dread, in a person, leads to certain perceptible actions and the most common is ‘precluding the possible’ through certain indicators such as irritability, lack of focus and concentration, loss of energy, insomnia and, in extreme cases, suicidal tendencies.

Irritability tells you that you can’t be normal, lack of focus tells you that you cannot fix your mind on anything, loss of energy tells you of the loss of enthusiasm, insomnia tells you your mind is wandering and hence you cannot sleep. Since you are surrounded by such negativities in life, suicidal tendencies egg you on about your worthlessness and slowly whisper that you have no right to live.

The dread in human beings takes birth from insecurities.

Insecurity is a state of weakness that comes from a want of empathetic periphery. Insecurities could be multifarious ranging from fulfilment in personal life to social life to professional life.

Expectation is a two-way process and if marked by a feeling of failure leads to disappointment and if there is a repeated failure it leads to hopelessness.

Hopelessness procreates a belligerent state of mind. This state of mind is like a dark battle that you grapple hard with inside of you while still outwardly compelled to put on an apparent mask of a happy-go-lucky human being.

Depression brings people to a grim stage in life where their “saviour self’ gradually starts getting obscured by their “fiendish self”.

They find themselves standing at the crossroads of indecisiveness pertaining which “self” to listen to. Such indecisiveness creates mood swings in people because of the baffling “inner voice” that does not make a person feel good about themselves owing to the not-so-good external circumstances.

The condition gets alarming when people don’t feel ‘heard’ even if they want to talk as there are times when people do want to vent out the pent-up frustration but they lack an audience of commensurate understanding.

People at times take the mood swings as craziness and a gesture of insanity instead of trying to understand.

There are even times when people around seem to be quite fed-up and tired of a person’s looking up to them either to listen, help or be present, and the person with the tangible symptoms of depression faces “disguised instructions” in the form of solutions.

Some of the exemplary statements that a person with depression faces are worth a look. At the outset, almost everyone hears of having a lot to be grateful for.

This indicates that despite of having a bright side to look at, a person is willingly choosing all the negative aspects over the positive ones and that is how they have to deal with the shame of not being good enough to appreciate things around them.

Secondly, the instructions on the process of “overthinking” have its own important space. Consequently, the person is repeatedly told to undertake “meditation” activities to restore focus and concentration that have been killed by overthinking.

People hardly bother to ask the depressed as to what brings them peace of mind.

Thirdly, a complete utopian journey is created by saying “everything will be okay” without any concrete reassurance of presence or support to make them feel that they are not isolated or lonely.

Fourthly, they are advised to “be happy” and suggestions on how to be happy include painting, gardening, admiring the beauty of nature, getting up in the morning with a resolution to make others smile etc.

This is a “top-down” approach that is indicative of closing the option on the part of the depressed to open up and pour their hearts out to the listener.

Fifthly, it is often seen as a meaningless psychological issue if a depressed person have material accomplishments.

It is quite often termed as being “all in the head” that gives a great feeling of disability and helplessness.

People compare the situation of the depressed to people who have more serious issues to deal with in life, which is a futile comparison as there could be no real connection between the two struggles.

Well, the upshot of analysing the above statements is that depression instead of subsiding, lingers and prolongs if the surrounding of a person is filled with “indifference” in attitude and behaviour.

As already discussed, depression can happen to anyone with or without accomplishments; hence, depression could be a sign of a desiring support and cooperation which, in turn, creates an instinctive lack of empowerment.

Talking it out is a solution, but a sincerely lent ear is difficult to find as it is often believed that people can have thousands of acquaintances but few real friends.

Therefore, real empowerment is felt when one has dependable “team members”, be they “team family” or “team friends” to support a person through adverse emotional breakdowns thus acting as “reviving soul mates”.

Conclusively, it can be said that the dreaded blues of depression creep in due to the want of love, support, soulful connection, presence and togetherness in a person’s life creating a parallel world that is not visible on the outside, but is terribly difficult to sustain.

It has become one of the world’s most widespread illness, yet is effectively curable through the antidote of love and understanding. So let us extend our hands in cooperation to make each other feel good.

Let’s talk, let’s listen, let’s heal.

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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.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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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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