My name is Aayushi Khemka and I am a 26-year-old PhD student at JNU, a mental health advocate and the co-founder of Mental Health Talks India. I did my M-Phil in Women Studies Program in around 2016-17 which was when I was reading around sexual assault. The very imagery of sexual assaults, be it on-screen or on-paper used to trigger my own trauma of sexual assaults. And this case was no different. So my professor advised me to start going for therapy.
When I had suicidal thoughts for the first time
While I was in my therapy, things started going downhill with my academics. Gradually, I started developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. I used to feel that I was not good enough and that academics are just not meant for me. I had to appear for my NET exam and I’d forgotten to take my ID to the examination centre without which I could not have been able to appear for the exam. It added to the previous triggers and I felt like I didn’t want to exist anymore.
I called up a couple of my friends and just listening to their voices calmed me down a bit. I told myself that I certainly don’t want to die and that I wanted to do something for myself. I tried talking to people about it, apart from just my therapist but I did not get a good response from those people.
Learning to live with my depression
I became suicidal and I had to see a psychiatrist. This is when a lot of stigmas came into my life. Initially, I didn’t tell people that I was seeing a psychiatrist. I started taking medicines and continued going for therapy alongside. I found myself recovering.
A few days ago, I had asked my psychiatrist whether depression ever gets cured to which he replied that I could think of it in terms of high blood pressure or diabetes. It is a lifestyle disease. It may not necessarily go but you learn to live with it.
Initiative to educate people about mental health
I met Adishi back in 2013 while we were both in college. She was my junior and had been a friend ever since. We wanted to do something about mental health in India and spread awareness. On April 11, 2018, there was an incident wherein I faced mental harassment in my university and I was certain that I can’t live amidst people who don’t understand anything around this.
This was when I created an account on Instagram which eventually evolved. In May 2018, Adishi joined in. There has been no looking back ever since. We started with Mental Health Talks India and it went well.
Be more welcoming
In the end, I would like to say that if there is any person who is dealing with mental health issues, they should reach out as they are certainly not alone in this. The ones who are not struggling themselves should make a space wherein people can reach out to you because we can’t keep on putting the onus on the ones who are already dealing with mental health issues. So, let’s all create a space where people can come and reach out to us without the fear of being judged.