Let’s Talk About Depression: “You Are Not Alone”

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Trigger Warning: Suicide

Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Let’s talk about ‘depression. Quoting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not, and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” As per the estimates by the World Health Organisation, 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression, globally. It could be anyone, your friend, your family member, you, yourself, or me. Even the person who is always jovial, struggles daily, wants to live life, a little longer with the continuous battle they go through. The pain and the feeling of getting drowned are real. It feels like a deep bottomless chasm, a place from where recuperation feels impossible. Then comes the juncture when you feel there is no other side to this life, and ending it feels like a new beginning to you.

It is sad how we have known about depression since ages, and yet we dismiss it as something unimportant. Shreemad Bhagwat Geeta talks about “The Yoga of Dejection” – stating Arjuna’s plights in great details to Sigmund Freud investigating it in “Civilizations And Its Discontent”.  And yet, we ridicule the idea of depression in the 21st century. Over the years, I have witnessed, how we deal with the subject of mental health and depression. You really must go lengths, proving ‘others’ that you are depressed. Later, you will be negated about your own feelings by ‘others’, their judgments and their validations. You will also be questioned about the degree of depression you have gone through. This is how the whole vicious cycle by society works, and you feel captured.

Actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

At the moment, everyone is saddened and deeply shocked by the sudden demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, a well-proclaimed actor, successful in every possible way, be it level of intellect, academics or in the glittery film industry. The whole nation is now mourning his death. Media outlets, as usual, have been ridiculing his death in every possible way and passing their judgments as to how, a person with every feather under his cap, can die by suicide. This really reflects the level of ignorance. As I went through Sushant’s Twitter handle, I noticed his cover image, which is one of the most famous paintings of all times – Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The painting is a testament to how beauty is timeless, unparalleled, and universal. A masterpiece which was created by Vincent when he was said to be suffering from chronic mental illness and depression, and later died by suicide in 1890. The question is, how do we save someone who is getting pulled by the forces of depression, and how can we recognize depression in an individual? Firstly, we need to have the level of acceptance and consideration of the whole situation. Inform yourself, read up, talk to people who have gone through it, and most importantly, be kind. Never ridicule anyone. Raise the level of your understanding, and come out of your ignorance, out of your rose-tinted world where all the red flags just look like flags. Please understand, a person going through this abyss would often feel like not going out anymore, withdrawing oneself, feeling irritable, frustrated, unhappy, indecisive to name a few. This is not them acting ‘moody’ or not being a wonderful companion to you, but the constant struggle they are going through. Talk to them and if they confide to you, encourage them in every single step to consult a professional. Don’t let go of humanity, humans.

To the people who are going through seemingly endless pain, I just want to tell you, I have been there, I know how it feels.

Please make sure to talk about how you feel with someone, but also remember, not everyone, even the nicest of human beings might be able to understand your pain and trauma. I know it takes a lot of courage to come out and express the thoughts going in your head, thoughts which sometimes when spoken aloud may sound completely illogical and inconsistent. But trust me, you got to do this. Remember, communication is the first key.

Talk to them and if they confide to you, encourage them in every single step to consult a professional.  Representational image.

Seeking professional help is the second step, and lastly, would be taking one step at a time. When life becomes a series of closing doors, make sure to reach out to the next. Because remember my friend, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You need to take a step forward for your own happiness. Quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald, “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

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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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