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It Is Time We Choose Empathy And Compassion Over Mental Health Stigma

Let’s admit it, people in today’s world still have irrational and unfounded views about mental illness. Well, everyone knows that mental health still remains a stigma in our society, just like having periods and being queer, no? Yes, we do talk about it, but what if someone from your friend circle or family faces a mental health issue. Will you accept it, or say “Arre tum zyada soch rahe ho, kuch din mein thik ho jayega? (You are overthinking, give it a few days, it will get better)” To us, it might just be overthinking, but to the person who is facing this, it might be watching their whole life crash or tumble from a cliff.

People in our society often label them as a psycho, maniac, lunatic and words that are really harsh. We aren’t helping them in any way by saying all this. Instead, we are pushing them towards the edge of a cliff and forcing them to jump. All we are doing is just increasing the stigma around us. It is not a shameful thing to have mental health issues. It is just like another issue that any other part of your body may face. Why do we create so much negativity about it?

We make them build walls around themselves. Why do we make them feel embarrassed or shameful and look at them like they have committed a crime? We make them lose out on the social support that they need. Why does talking about mental health make us uncomfortable? There are, in fact, a large number of people facing mental health issues, surprising isn’t it? A person can still face mental illness without experiencing sadness; depression isn’t the only mental health disorder.

We must try and do our part to ease the difficulties people face. 

Everyone in the world can face mental health issues; it could be a singer, actor or a celebrity. We should thank Bollywood for creating such a negative image of people with illnesses, that they are considered anti-social, aggressive or and frightening. It’s time now to talk about mental health openly rather than running away from it.

People who face all these issues avoid talking about them. Do you know why? Because they feel they are inviting trouble for themselves. Well, in a way, they are correct because we have spoken shit out of mouth, haven’t we? “Yaar tum toh defective piece ho (You are a defective piece)” or “Aisa kuch nahi hota (There is nothing like this) is what we say.

Such insensitive stigmatisation and stereotyping make them feel worse. We need more of these stigma busters. Stigma is a word no one understands well enough. It’s deeper than the beliefs people are conscious of. Discrimination is not only related to race, gender or religious belief.

Ignorance about mental illness causes isolation and prevents sufferers from living life to the full. One in four people will have mental health problems at some point in their life, but many more have a problem with that. When people cannot distinguish the difference between mental illness and learning disabilities, it’s disheartening. The more the stigmas, the fewer people will seek help. That is not accurate. Stigma is unquestionably still a significant issue. And we should avoid discriminating.

Individuals actually need to make a concerted attempt to do something about dealing with preconceived notions. Let’s take a look at several things that hardly take any effort to make life less difficult for an individual, especially when the life of that person is already more challenging than it should be. Rather than adding on to their issues and making their lives harder, we must try and do our part to ease the difficulties people face. Let’s make a difference. Be it in general, at the workplace, with friends or family.

silhouette of three people jumping in the air
Recognise things for what they really are, rather than looking at them based on your own opinion.
  • Recognise things for what they really are, rather than looking at them based on your own opinion.
  • Do not neglect the things you are saying and doing with regard to how they affect the lives of another person.
  • Stop letting media manipulate your personal view, particularly by using biased or one-sided views.
  • You ought not to turn a patient’s mental illness into a joke and the serious problems that come with it.
  • Don’t leave them feeling like they’re a crappy person to deal with. Don’t beat them down for wanting help.
  • Help them, rather than treating them as if they are a burden or simply want attention.
  • Please stop judging your colleagues if they have an appointment with their therapist.
  • Be compassionate.


When coping with a mental or physical disorder, a person should not have to feel bad or guilty. Respect your employees and colleagues if someone in your workplace expresses that they have been denigrated because of a work colleague. Treat it no differently than someone who discriminates against a person based on their gender or colour. When anyone wants items that have been explained more than once or explained in another way, don’t try to abandon them or make them feel dumb. Explain it so they understand, rather than threatening them.

Help your child understand and navigate through mental health. Think of what you’re doing to make their lives simpler and also what you’re doing to make their lives tougher. Don’t make them feel like they’re a burden. Do things to help build up your child so others won’t be able to break them down. Respect their limits. Don’t make them feel bad or guilty for needing medication.

Mental disorders are not deficiencies of character; they are legitimate medical conditions. Discrimination is a difference based on race, religion, ethnicity, and yes, mental illness. For some reason, our society shows more hopelessness to mental health issues than empathy, which is something we should be ashamed of, especially when the life of a person is perceived with so little value. We should be ashamed that we cannot see beyond our own unempathetic opinions.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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