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If You Suffer From Depression, You’re Not Alone

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In 1996, my cousin lost his battle with depression. I was a six-year-old boy, oblivious to the world. My reaction to all of this was to fill the courtyard wall with random scribbles with a piece of coal I found while everyone else was howling and weeping inside. I didn’t think much of it or care. My boredom got the best of me. However, it affected me subconsciously, which became evident when I experienced mild depression. (I am still in it).

I keep thinking of him and the day of his funeral for some reason though I didn’t know him very well while he was alive and I didn’t miss him when he was gone. I somehow seem to miss him most when I feel dejected. It is a fascinating exchange between the six-year-old boy and this 28-year-old man. There is a close link between his death and the time when I was old enough to realise that I may be suffering from mental illness myself.

I’m sure there are millions of people who share my experience. My empathy has its roots in my cousin’s actions 18 years ago, which in some strange way saved me from a similar fate. I still hear my relatives talk about him fondly and grieve over his death. They say, “He was really good in his studies. I don’t know why he committed such an act.” This reflects how society perceives someone who takes their own life.

In India, education shapes the life of every student and their parents. There is intense competition to be a reflection of society’s values. This puts tremendous pressure on a person and may lead someone to take their own life.

People seem to somehow forget about mental illness. It seems to have been wiped away from our society’s collective consciousness, which only seems to recognise physical scars.

Around 6% of Ladakh’s population is believed to be suffering from a mental disorder, and the rate of suicides continues to increase. This compelled the government to start a mental health programme.

Writer Andrew Solomon argues, “Depression is the result of a flaw in love.” He adds that a depressive feels that he/she sees the truth. However, the truth lies and makes him/her believe that there is nothing to live for anymore and that nothing matters. This is the breaking point of an individual, which we, as outsiders, fail to tap or understand.

The individual requires support from his/her immediate environment and people around them must be alert to various signs. These signs of depression are generally evident, but we often fail to acknowledge them. Sadly, in many cases, parents shy away from displaying affection, which is one of the most effective ways to combat depression. We need to remember two important things when we are helping someone suffering from depression. One, we must be alert for warning signs, and two, we need to be there for them, guide them, and be affectionate.

Recently, a young boy in my neighbourhood committed suicide, and this shook me up. He showed many signs of depression, especially after he stopped speaking with his friends four months ago. He stopped going out and meeting people. I live very close to his house and did not see him for a very long. I assumed that he was somewhere else until I got the news of his death.

This is a classic case of an individual silently enduring hell every day. I have still not come to terms with the fact that I would pass his house every day. I have played cricket with him in the past and never imagined that he was suffering from depression. And yet there he was, cooped up inside and dying slowly.

We urgently need to create awareness about this disease. Millions of people across the world suffer from depression, but little is known about it. There are many biases and stigma attached to depression other mental disorders. We need to ensure that a person who has a mental illness receives the same level of treatment as those suffering from a physical ailment.

Over the last few months and years, many high profile individuals around the world have taken their own lives after battling with depression. Mental disorders can be very scary, and they affect people of every age, caste, and creed.

I still slip in and out of depression. I have never dared to share this with anyone. This is the first time I have admitted it publicly. The sight of the boy’s lifeless body in my neighbourhood made me realise that I needed to do something. I decided that writing would be my first step.

This is a complex and difficult issue to understand. I overheard someone commenting, “Why did he do this! There are less fortunate people than him, and they don’t kill themselves.” This person was ignorant about mental disorders, but I don’t blame him/her. The comment reflects our general mindset and ignorance. Yes, there are a lot of poor people who face more hardship on a daily basis than this boy would face in his lifetime. However, we need to understand the subjective experience of happiness and variation in how people respond to expectations.

Depression is real. According to a 2018 World Health Organization report, about 800,000 people commit suicide due to depression every year. It is the second highest cause of death for people between 15 and 29 years of age.

We are passing through a very rough time in history with many youths dying in accidents that are unpredictable but avoidable. In contrast, mental disorders cast an invisible shadow in our lives, and it can only be addressed through awareness that leads people to seek treatment as one would for any disease. We must remember that mental disorders are a form of sickness and can be cured with treatment.

I know that many people are suffering from various mental disorders. This is my effort to reach out to them and tell them that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten or being ignored, that we have people in our lives, who want and cherish us.

 

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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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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