By Priya Tamma, 28/8/2019
I have been part of this collective since the beginning. What started as a concern for mental health issues in academia, my interest has since then expanded to understanding how we talk about mental health and how we create support structures for ourselves. For most of us, mental health and wellbeing is not something that we prioritised or recognised in our lives. Most people still think that depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions and illnesses are ‘only in your head’ and are not real medical issues, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. From making jokes at the expense of the mentally unwell to not considering it a serious illness, our communities have a lot to learn about mental illnesses, wellbeing and health. Fortunately, one can see the beginnings of a change in perceptions and perspectives. But we have miles to go..
This collective started as a means to a) develop conversations around mental health, b) experiment in the means to create safe spaces and c) develop and trial activities that ease discussing mental health and creating safe spaces. We are a small group of people with different perspectives and we’ve had a reasonably productive year. I am hoping that we continue engaging with these issues and with each other in the coming years, however sporadic our meetings may be, and however small the membership becomes. In my opinion this is important for many reasons –
- I haven’t come across many such experiments in creating safe spaces and ways to engage with mental health. This then, for me, represents an important experiment. Much of the work into creating and maintaining this community has been put in by individuals who have felt the need for such a space. The lessons we’ve learnt, the mistakes we’ve made and the successes we’ve seen are worth documenting and sharing. This will probably be an important resource for other groups that would like to replicate this. We have curated/tested many activities and strategies to talk about mental health and wellbeing, many of which have worked very well for us. As a group, the next steps could focus on curating our experiences and activities, and designing modules that can be shared in the public domain so that other interested groups can use and modify. Our experience can help us help other communities and groups put together such initiatives and develop safe spaces.
- We should keep going because we have started. Such initiatives take time and effort (both emotional and physical). We will see ‘dividends’ only after a couple of years of constant (even if sporadic) engagement. Many of us have invested time and effort in creating a safe space where we feel comfortable and confident sharing the ups and downs of our own lives. We have to continue to put in effort in shaping this safe space and letting it evolve, not only for our own wellbeing but also to see how and where this experiment goes in the future. Sustained commitment and interest are important to keep the conversations and ideas going.
- Being an adult is hard and it takes a lot of support to function in today’s dysfunctional world. Mental wellbeing is an important aspect of our overall well being, and this has to be taken more seriously. We can only move forward when we build communities of people who support and are empathetic to each other. Creating a support system takes time, and for me this is an important outcome of this exercise. Personally, I have gained from being a part of this collective. It has helped me think about my own mental health and wellbeing in a positive and preemptive manner. I would like to see this collective meet, discuss and invest in the projects that we have taken up as a means to continue engaging with a varied group of people who bring different perspectives to the discussions.
We’ve mostly been a small, relatively homogeneous group. There is a need to include more voices and diverse experiences/backgrounds into the collective. This will not only make it stronger, but is important for our understanding of mental wellness in the Indian context. We hope that we have created a space that is inclusive and welcoming of new people and ideas. If you would like to create a safe space for yourself or your communities, please let us know and please look out for some of the material that we will share.