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Nine Things I Learnt About Friendship And Mental Health From ’13 Reasons Why’

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One of my friends referred me to watch the English show 13 Reasons Why. I have watched two seasons already and am super excited for the third and fourth. Before moving on to the next session, I want share a few things that I learned from this high school teenager drama series.

The series aims to touch on the issues of mental health among high school students. It is based on the bestselling book by Jay Asher’s with the same name. I would like to share some lessons I learned from two of its seasons.

We Don’t Know Everyone’s Story

Although the series is based on a fictional book, we may relate to some character and incidents. The series taught us that however close two friends might be, there are certain things that we are not mindful of; we are not aware of everyone’s story, and we might ignore the hidden pain behind their smile. I have some friends who seem very happy, but when I talked to them, I realised that they are covering their harsh reality with a smile on their face. For example, Jessica hid many dark truths about her life with a happy face.

Think Before You Speak

We must always think before speaking. Sometimes, our words may hurt others’ feelings. Whatever mistake one makes, we should not use a language that may hurt anyone. Hannah Baker tells her story but forgets that her words might hurt others badly. Although she was right at her place, she should have thought about her words.

hannah from 13 reasons why

Express Your Love Before It Is Too Late

Clay Jenson used to like Hannah Baker, but could not express his love in words. Possibly, his words could have saved Hannah. If you love someone, express before it’s too late, you never know how your words may help someone.

Do Not Spread Rumours

Sometimes, words speak or mean more than what we think or realise; it may destroy or build one’s world. These words or stories may demotivate someone badly and lead to dire consequences in their life. In the present context, we are seeing a kind of hatredness being built among Hindu Nationalists against minority communities. Many rumoured news or videos played a crucial role in spreading hatred among them. We need to think twice before spreading rumours. For us, it might be a joke, but other people might take it wrongly.

Do Not Hide Your Problems

We should never hide our problems. Before this problem leads to a mental consequence, we must speak about it. Sometimes, we think it’s nothing but a worry, but this may lead to stress, anxiety, depression and so on. From Hannah to Clay to Jessica, everyone hid something and later suffered. It is always better to speak about your problems with your loved ones.

Never Ignore A Friend’s Helping Words

If a friend seeks our help directly or indirectly, we should never ignore it. If a friend or acquaintance cries before us, never ever ignore such a cry. For example, Counsellor Kevin Porter ignored the cry of Hannah Baker, thus failing to prevent her death. Hannah gave him many alarms, but he could not understand her feelings. He wanted words from her and Hannah could not speak in words.

We All Suffer 

According to the WHO, one out of every four people suffers from some kind of mental health illness. This series is all about mental health issues, and even in the disclaimer, it alerts us to not watch the series if they are going through any prolonged mental health illness. The series tells us that anyone can be affected by a mental disorder, at any moment in their life. Every character is suffering from one or the other kind of mental disorder. It is essential to talk it out with friends, family or a professional.

From Hannah to Clay to Jessica, everyone hid something and later suffered. It is always better to speak about your problems with your loved ones.

Find ‘Your’ Tribe

It is very important to find precious people in your life, with whom you can share everything. Hannah Baker had so many friends, but she could not find a confidant. At one point, she started sidelining everyone and thought that no one is good to her. In our bad times, we start doubting everyone. Had Hannah realised that Clay Jenson is a kind-hearted friend, she might have survived.

Suicide Is Not The Answer

Suicide not only end a person’s life, but it also affects lives of many more. Suicide can never be the answer to your questions. You may have reasons to die, but one must try looking for reasons to survive as well. If someone commits suicide, it does not answer their questions, but leads to many others. Hannah gave 13 reasons for her suicide, but she also might have been able to find 26 reasons to survive. After she killed herself, the whole school as well has her close friends got affected.

There are always resources, reasons and people who may be able to help battle suicidal thoughts. I would highly recommend you to watch this series and am quite sure that it would make some positive changes in your life.

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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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