“How are you doing, really?”
“I just feel like sleeping all the time… getting out of bed is a struggle”
A decade ago, this conversation would have come across as potentially uncomfortable. However, in recent years a few women warriors have decided to speak up about the burdening silence of painful truths. In a society where mental illness was often silenced as an “unreal” issue or a “rich person’s privilege”–these women spoke up with courage.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020, let us acquaint you with some of these women of steel who have changed the narrative around mental health in India:
1. Deepika Padukone
Along with being known for showcasing strength in vulnerability in the skin of her reel characters, Deepika Padukone also took the baton of courageously doing the same in her real life .
Opening up about her personal struggle with depression she shared ,“The word that best describes my experience of depression is struggle. Every second was a struggle. I felt exhausted the whole time.” She also reaffirmed that depression is a clinical condition that is beyond anyone’s control no matter the socio-economic status one has.
In a country where people aren’t often comfortable talking to each other about their emotions, a celebrity opening up about her mental health challenges and starting an organisation–Live Love Laugh Foundation–to help others battling similar afflictions is truly commendable.
2. Monika Kumar
While grieving the loss of both her father and sister who were killed in an accident, our next mental warrior found her purpose.
As the founder of Manas foundation she envisioned a mental healthcare system that takes treatment outside the confines of hospitals. Soon, she started a counseling centre in her home and created a play-based school for children with learning and behaviour issues, and space for workshops.
For the unstoppable efforts of creating this real change , Monika Kumar became a recipient of the EdelGive Social Innovation Honour for her work with underprivileged women, using models of psycho-social rehabilitation and care. She is a symbolic representation of real change that shall consistently inspire us all.
3. Vandana Gopikumar
The experience of seeing a mentally ill woman on the roads of Chennai encouraged Vandana Gopikumar and her friend Vaishnavi Jayakar to start The Banyan–a home for mentally ill, destitute women.
After deep research she noticed links between homelessness, mental sickness, poverty, and the resulting distress. Through this diagnosis, they developed a range of innovative solutions for rescue, care, rehabilitation, vocational training, legal aid, and reintegration.
Vandana Gopikumar truly exemplifies the resilient strength of women and as a token of recognising her consistent service she was awarded the ‘Outstanding achievement in the field of mental health care’ award in 2012.
4. Reshma Valliappan
Donning multiple hats of being an artist , filmmaker, activist and founder of The Red Door is our next mental warrior Reshma Valliappan also known as Val Resh.
After being diagnosed with schizophrenia, she created a documentary ‘A Drop of Sunshine’–sharing her journey of living without medications and exploring alternative natural therapies like exercise, meditation, and spirituality.
In her book, Fallen, Standing: My Life as a Schizophrenist, she bravely penned about surviving suicide attempts and her suffering the effects of drugs. She also opened conversations for LGBTQ rights which featured on CREA’s special series on United Against 377
We truly salute her sincerity to pour her heart into her art, slowly transforming uncomfortable conversations into the new normal.
5. Natasha Noel
She is an exemplary example of strength in vulnerability. A social media influencer and yogini, she bravely shares her struggles with dealing with the aftermath of rape, abuse, and depression.
Her indomitable spirit of fighting for truth is reflective in her conversations breaking the stigma in society that surrounds these topics.
She uses her own story and talks about rape, mental illnesses, depression and anxiety, and body positivity in order to serve the bigger community.