mindU Takes Mental Health to the Streets
We didn’t know what to expect. We were setting up a mental health stall at a large shopping festival in Bangalore in just a few days, but we wondered, is India ready for it? Will India look at mental health squarely in the face or will it turn its head away in shy embarrassment?
We’ve all read the news. The pandemic has raised the incidence of mental health issues across the world. More people have experienced prolonged loneliness, grief, lack of motivation, stress, worry and blues firsthand compared to any other time in the recent past. While people no longer gawk at you when you say mental health (awareness has increased), would the far majority pay attention to their own mental health and take steps to improve it? We wondered.
So our stall was a crucible of the acceptance of mental health, not just awareness. By setting up a stall, we were making mental health hard to avoid — it was suddenly in your face! Question is, how would you react? Would you come near our stall or hurriedly walk away? This was our litmus test to measure the stigma surrounding mental health.
And here’s what the test’s results say. People are willing to be seen as mental health allies, but they are not willing to identify themselves and share their stories with others to normalize mental health. Because mental health is seen as a weakness, not a common, human occurrence.
I keep reading statistics of how mental health affects 1 in 5 or 300 million Indians. Wrong! Mental health affects everyone. Period. It’s just like physical health, only hidden. In the WHO’s words, “Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders”; indeed, it’s “a state in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” In other words, you are in the pink of mental health when you can function optimally and contribute to others.
So if you sweep your mental health under the rug, you will be denying yourself the golden opportunity to raise the quality of your life. Because the truth is, the more you pay attention to your mind, the more value you will unlock in your life. It’s that simple. So what’s there to lose? Why not do everything you possibly can to grow into yourself and your life?
You don’t need to know the ‘right’ moment or reason to seek help; if you are thinking about it, it’s already time! In fact, everyone can benefit from counseling. Counseling holds a mirror up to your inner self and helps you build a healthy narrative of your life. It guides your current and future thoughts, feelings and actions to lead to a better you, better work, and better relationships.
You may be hesitant today, but mindU sees a braver tomorrow. And we are here to nudge you further in your self-care journey.
To increase people’s courage to help themselves, mindU is setting mental health stalls across India. We are taking mental health to the streets. Our dream is that people will not only show up for themselves, but also for others. Our dream is that more and more people will put a face to their mental struggles so that people realize we are in the same boat, and draw strength from each other. Our dream is to see mental health messages on billboards, buses, and in airports.
And what do they say about dreams? If you can dream it, you can do it.