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In 2019, Take Better Care Of Your Mental Health (Here’s How)

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The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” —William James

With the advent of the new year, it’s important to talk about awareness regarding mental health. Our generation has begun to seek important help from therapists for various issues that we face with the high stress world that we find ourselves to be living in. It’s logical that our probability of developing or triggering a predisposed genetic mental illness increases manifold. Can going for therapy help you develop the necessary skills to deal with all the stressors of daily life?

What To Let Go Of

Many find themselves skeptical towards the process, many look down upon it. The stigma of asking for professional help is extremely problematic. Moreover, we are taught to ignore our feelings (which are seen as ‘feminine’) and that is a part of the toxic masculinity’s agenda. Another impediment is that people have been told to keep up with a fast-paced life, rather than slow down and reflect. People are also hesitant because they feel it will legitimise the tag of ‘being mentally unwell’, and a fear of not being accepted in society.

But perhaps in the new year you might overcome these notions, and are considering seeking therapy. It’s great to be taking that important first step.

What To Look For

When I inquired about the modality of the therapists some of my friends are seeing, almost everyone is clueless. You as a client have the right to know the ‘school’ your therapist follows. This will also give you a better idea of whether the therapist would be someone you would be comfortable going to. You might end up with an unethical misogynist. I have met a therapist who did not report a case of child sexual abuse because the child’s life would be ‘ruined’. This same therapist denied the existence of social power structures like patriarchy and male privilege. Oh, and he would show pictures of his clients to others, breaching confidentiality!

The Paperwork

The Client Agreement Form must be provided by your therapist. This document has all the information about them, including their educational and experiential background, modality (I’ll get to that in a bit), fee, office policies, and more. Usually accompanying the client agreement form, Informed Consent is permission granted by the client in full knowledge of the possible consequences, and possible risks, and benefits. If the client is an adult and in a place to give consent, it is provided by the client themselves. For an underage person, the family or a guardian is the only one who can provide consent.

Your Treatment Plan

Goal-setting is a major aspect of psychotherapy, and you, as a client, have the right to know and decide with the therapist what the goals of therapy are, and what the treatment plan is. The therapist should describe the therapeutic process of how they work with clients as per your satisfaction.

Therapy Records

A lot clients don’t know that they can review all the work that the therapist has done with them. You can ask the therapist to show the records that they keep of you. You can also ask for summaries, or for the entire records themselves.

Rapport First, Testing Later

I have seen that many psychologists tend to rely on tests to make a diagnosis. Often a test is applied after seeing the client twice, which is not enough time to make rapport. Developing a healthy therapeutic alliance with your client and then (if needed) testing them is ethical practice. Testing without forming adequate rapport might lead to a lot of issues. For example, the client may provide ‘socially acceptable’ answers (thanks to the stigma around mental health). Another outcome could be that the client may not turn up if they feel the therapy is too impersonal.

Testing Is Not Always Necessary

There is a lot of money in testing and a lot of psychologists might ask a client to go through a battery of tests for absolutely no reason. The intake session usually provides the therapist with most of the information they need about a client, and the consequent sessions will reveal the rest of the information needed for the therapist to formulate their session plans and help the client help themselves.

Saying ‘No’ To The Therapist

Your therapist and you as a client have equal power in the therapeutic relationship.

A client may come to therapy thinking “This person will fix me if I do everything that they ask me to do”. Often, a therapist may give the client assignments or homework. But if the client has the aforementioned mindset, they might take on homework that they are not able to do and end up either doing it just before the session or turning up in the session without doing the homework. This mindset can backfire. Instead, saying ‘no’ and working out an alternative is a more productive approach.

Termination And Referral

A lot of clients might see a therapist even if their modality does not work for them. In fact, when it doesn’t work, they might just end up not seeing the therapist anymore. This can lead to many issues and can end up harming the client rather than helping them achieve better mental health than they came in with. At this point the client has the right to put up grievances and ask to be referred to another therapist. Please remember that you have volunteered to come for therapy and you can take back consent as and when you want.

More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally, and close there are 8,00,000 successful suicide attempts every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-29. Bipolar Disorder affects about 60 million, and Schizophrenia affects about 23 million people worldwide. Mental health issues are on a rise due to high stress environment, lack of trained professionals, and stigma. Psychotherapists can make early intervention in schools and the familial settings, by providing coping mechanisms and changing public perspectives about those who living with mental health issues.

Ready To Take The First Step?

The world that we find ourselves in is one of the issues why the present generation suffers from mental health issues. Also lack of resilience, motivation, and effective coping skills being passed down generation to generation has contributed to the same. Environmental stressors such as the increase in pollution is also one of the reasons. Yes, a decrease in physical health has a direct correlation with decrease in mental well-being. In the end, we are all the products of the environment were brought up in.

I can understand that taking the first step is the hardest, but that’s half the battle won. Once you are dedicated to getting better, you can claim control over your own life. So think of these nine points when you begin your mental health care journey in the new year.

Featured Image source: Department of Foreign Affairs/Flickr.
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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.”

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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