The quarantine might have been a blessing to nature, but for the common person, our mental health is in shambles, and the will to be productive, close to nil. It is no surprise that The Lancet, the WHO, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have been routinely advising all to look after their staggering mental health.
A report by The Lancet states that 28% of parents in the study who quarantined reported sufficient symptoms to warrant a diagnosis of a trauma-related mental health disorder, compared to 6% of parents who were not quarantined. Extending this to the skyrocketing numbers of India, it is evident that anxiety would be across the roof.
As a college student with immense anxiety regarding my higher education, the pandemic has added on to my already over-thinking and anxious self. Left bereft of a social environment that I, as an extrovert, deeply crave for, the replacement of the touch of a fellow loved one with the rectangular boxes in our hands can never be justified. Where do I go to talk it out? I miss having a physical conversation without masks and distance, but only physical intimacy with two cups of chai on a rooftop. The sense of belongingness in a face-to-face conversation is irreplaceable.
However, as my irritation grew more, a simple Google search was enough to point out several websites that could help maintain my confidentiality, as well as give me a platform to vent it out. One such platform was Now&Me — a community supported website that advocates for mental well-being and health by offering a free platform for individuals to talk it out.
Though their USP is to talk it out, I was left largely in awe of a value that I thought this world was shedding off — humanity. Now&Me allows you to freely open up about your thoughts and expressions to strangers, who share their stories and support you with empathy and utmost love.
I came across commoners opening up to total strangers and sharing their deepest desires, trauma, feelings and dreams — right from failed educational dreams to failed love stories running around tropes of religion and caste, childhood horror stories of abuse and figuring out one’s sexuality. The uncertainty regarding COVID-19 remained a dominant part of the discourse. The fear is evident and uncontrollable.
They say opening up to a stranger feels different. Certainly, it does. Without the barriers of judgement and biases lies a world where I could be my own self, converse with strangers I’d never meet in centuries. Despite social media being a haven of abuse, a multitude of rape threats and threatening messages, the sheer welcoming nature left me in quite a dilemma. How can the two worlds of anger and love co-exist? How can one part of the country believe in foul play while the other exudes of happiness?
COVID-19 could have been a uniting factor between these two worlds, a reminder of love and support, standing with one another. Yet, it has only exposed the already-existent divisions and inequalities present among us. As they say, “The rich become a headline, while the poor remain only numbers.” If an organisation can remind us of a utopian world where strangers can freely share their pain and for a second, just a second, forget that a world laden with inequalities, pain, atrocities and darkness awaits them right outside their digital space, then where is the harm?
Mental health would take uglier and more demonic forms in the impending future. The infrastructure associated with availing better mental health facilities is largely elitist, and exclusive too. It is predicted that in future, over 20% of India would be affected by rising mental health concerns. Thus, it is now that we need to build a non-judgmental and supportive environment that blooms on love and trust.
It is pertinent that we as individuals remember to share our joys and sorrows with our loved ones or the ones we never knew. While another night goes by when I battle with my childhood trauma and its implication on the young adult in me, somewhere, I am glad — a stranger knows my story and at least, for that night, my heart is a little less heavy.