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Loneliness Is A Complex Emotion That Can Be Difficult To Shed

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Have you ever felt so hungry only to realise that the hunger won’t go away? Your body keeps craving for more, and there is malnutrition of the mind and soul. Loneliness is a psychological parallel to this and it is a time when silence overtakes comfort. It is an escape and a refuge for you to constantly run to, where you feel there is no one to judge you and you can completely be yourself.

Loneliness cannot be confused with social isolation, which is a state of (often almost complete) lack of contact between an individual and society. Having a dampened mood perpetually, a lot of lethargy, withdrawal from others, crying for no reason, or unusual amounts of quietude can all work together to manifest into this complex emotion – loneliness.

Although, there is a catch, similar to how your body disintegrates from hunger – when you are starved and you can feel your nails snapping; where every fibre of your being is craving for food, which it cannot even digest because digestion is just agony similar is loneliness!

Emotional complexity has a lot to do with loneliness and in order to deal with it we need to understand the causes of what leads to it in the first place. Sometimes we end up in social situations, but all we feel like doing is locking ourselves up in our own cocoon, hiding ourselves away from people.

Most times, it’s hard to break free from the chains of loneliness, especially when there is hyper-vigilance surrounding it, as a result of social threat. This becomes all the more problematic because the lonelier a person becomes, the less ‘adept’ they get at dealing with social situations.

This is why they get characterised with traits such as being aloof, awkward, anti-social or even rude. There are many reasons why a person feels lonely such as having difficulties adjusting to living alone after living with a family, having poor mental or physical health, fear of rejection and thereby avoiding social situations, losing a job or not working or just the inability to face reality as it is.

There are many health risks that are associated with loneliness and some of these include decreased memory and learning abilities, inability to make rational decisions and even a change in our brain’s functioning, anti-social behaviouristic patterns, the use of drugs and other substances, alcoholism, cardiovascular disease or even stroke, no or negligible levels of exercise (self-care), a high-fat diet, irregular sleep patterns, irregular formation of cellular processes within the body which predisposes us to premature ageing.

Even in current times, as social media has helped to connect people across the globe with the use of smart technology and the use of the easy access of internet, Rachel Cohen, a psychologist from the Black Dog Institute says, “With social media we are more connected, but what is the quality of that connection? It’s the quality of our relationships that count. It’s not to say social networking is bad at all – there is plenty of positive in it – but you need to use it concurrently with face-to-face interaction. If it’s your sole mechanism for connecting with people, it’s going to feel somewhat hollow and not fulfil that basic need we have.”

“As well, a lot of people are comparing themselves to others, who are only posting their ‘highlight reel’. Even if you have just come away from a face-to-face social interaction, social media can very quickly make you feel dissatisfied with your own life and your own social engagements.”

Moreover, research has shown that there are also many other factors that also contribute to how distressed social disconnection can actually make you feel.

Although it is a very heritable trait, environmental factors such as living alone, social isolation, health issues or even death in the family or amongst friends may contribute to this feeling. It leads to feelings of sadness but many other feelings such as anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, inability to regulate stress and diminished optimism. Loneliness cannot be avoided and can never be eradicated from our society. We can’t just surround ourselves amongst people and expect loneliness to disappear We really need to have meaningful conversations and develop meaningful bonds with people.

“Some people need deep conversations, and for some that’s not it at all – it’s about bonding around something they share a common interest in,” Rachel says.

“Others just need someone to sit next to on the couch in silence and it’s comfortable. It’s about knowing what fulfils that social need for you – when do you feel your need is met?”

According to Dr Alexandra Solomon, a Chicago based clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor at Northwestern University; we instinctively know how to avoid loneliness. “The cure for loneliness is basically coming home to our default setting, our natural essence, the way that we really are wired to be,” she says. “We don’t have to learn something new to fight loneliness. We have to remember something forgotten.”

Even the shiny ones on social media endure loneliness at some point of time or the other. Times have changed though. “In this digital age, we’re chronically impatient,” Dr Solomon sighs.

Note: the Black Dog Institute is a world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

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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, 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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