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While The World Fights A Pandemic, People With Anxiety Also Fight The Devils Within

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The lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak has been proving to be an altogether different experience for each one of us. The social, economic, and financial implications caused by the ‘minuscule’ lifeform has been debilitating, and the social divide has never been so explicit.

The forced aloofness has indeed got some of us rekindling with themselves and family, some renewing their old friendships and kinship, some using it constructively by learning new things and some just relaxing in their own way. A lot has been doing the rounds on social media on how one can pass time constructively with enjoyment.

However, amidst this medley of emotions also comes the incessant crawl of subtle unrest: anxiety.

The constant news on ever-increasing COVID-19 cases in India, and the deaths, the endless debates questioning the fallacy and responses of the government, the hazmat suits and masks, the frenzy at grocery stores, the uncertainty of education, jobs, and markets only accelerates the unrest and the ingrained ‘devils’ of anxiety come alive.

To make matters worse, it also deteriorates physical health due to restricted socialising and physical communication. This is what patients of anxiety and depression go through. While the world fights the pandemic, they also fight with the devils within.

Representational image.

For many this may seem to be an overwhelming response; an overreaction to the daily changes. After all, all of us, most of them, taste and digest it with no hangover and perpetual emotional implications. But, this isn’t the case with everyone. An air of gloominess and withdrawal transcends and remains for indefinite time.

With anxiety and depression survivors, who already face the wrath of the hidden emotion on a daily basis, the whole present situation can only aggravate that they have been already fighting from within. And this becomes worse for all those who may not be staying with their loved ones during the lockdown. For them, the physical presence of consolation and talk makes a huge difference.

Anxiety and depression is already overlooked as a mere health issue by the masses.

Envisioning it is not in everyone’s capacity unless they face it themselves or are looking after one of them closely. These times are indeed proving debilitating for everyone already, and amidst this anxiety and depression patients are experiencing the illness in different manifestations-withdrawal, suffocation, claustrophobia, racing thoughts or becoming passive, no will to live life and sometimes suicidal thoughts. The crawls of these manifestations affect them for it entangles them in an infinite loop or sometimes appear as bouts lasting for few hours and if this continues on a long span it can prove dangerous to them.

To understand and help those suffering from anxiety and depression (both patients and those who might have developed symptoms) is to acknowledge their illness and to resonate with them at a personal level to understand what is that they feel. Acknowledgement is the key to understand the problem. Deciphering it is not that crucial given the complexity. Talking to them on a regular basis can always assist them in the war that they fight within.

Representational image.

Those of you who face the monstrous emotion with valour and smiles, do not worry. There are multiple ways you can fight it. Bracing the problem is crucial and the first step to self-care. Avoiding or not acknowledging it can make matters only worse in the near future.

Seek out help from close friends, family members, or psychiatric help online. Sharing how you feel is not a burden to anybody but is your right you have over yourself of self-acknowledgement and self-help. Although it is difficult to stop the incessant thoughts that are usually triggered with different things during these unprecedented times, yet, I don’t think escapism is not the solution.

Daily exercises, cultivating new hobbies, and watching stuff you enjoy can make a huge difference. It is very crucial to choose the content you consume cautiously. With already so much on social media about the coronavirus, it is very understandable to be overwhelmed and get drawn to a whirlpool of anxiety.

Keep yourself updated but try not to get absorbed by it for a long time. The only possible way out is to accept and spend time constructively. The best catharsis is to pen down how you have been feeling or how you spend your day. It helps give direction and you would find yourselves hold the reins of your mind once again. It can also be mere scribbling or drawing or talking to yourself. All this streamlines well against the crawls that paralyse you emotionally. Also, there can also be a feeling of guilt if you are not spending time productively.

As long as you spend your time, be it lazily or constructively, provided it doesn’t take a toll on your mental and physical health, it is completely fine.

For everyone, there is a different way of respite and escapism, but with patients of anxiety and depression, special care should be taken. Be aware of daily news but don’t let that sink you to an abyss of oblivion. It was hard before and its harder even now, but in the end, it’s all up to how we deal with the problem and seek solutions before we confer ourselves the ‘problem’. To the strong souls with bright smiles: you shall triumph.

Take care!

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.

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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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