#PickUpThePhone to raise awareness for mental health

  • Humaira Ansari, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 04, 2014 21:59 IST

Breaking stereotypes, flashing feminism, protesting against sexual abuse — social media, today, is peppered with photos of people posing with placards bearing positive messages and catchy hashtags. In the age of Internet activism, such campaigns often go viral too, creating awareness about their causes.

Hoping for a similar effect, Mumbai-based non-profit counselling helpline iCALL — set up by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 2012 — has launched an online campaign hashtagged #PickUpThePhone, ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10.

The campaign requires people to write a positive message incorporating the hashtag and the helpline’s number (022-2556-3291) on a placard. They must then take a selfie holding the placard, and email it to icallhelpline@gmail.com by October 6.

The iCALL team will eventually post these photos on its Facebook and Twitter timelines on October 10, to create awareness about the helpline, encourage people to reach out for help, and, most importantly, reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and therapy.

“You’re not supposed to say bad things about your parents or talk ill of your husband or wife even if they are abusive,” says iCALL programme coordinator Paras Sharma. “Indian society imposes too many taboos. People are still too ‘discreet’ about sharing their problems, especially with an ‘outsider’, even if that outsider is a trained counsellor or psychologist offering their services for free. The campaign is an attempt to fight mental health taboos and spread the word that counselling is just a phone call away.”

Among those who have already sent in their entries is stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal, 27. “I have noticed that many young people, especially men, feel lost in Mumbai. For them, it’s a bigger taboo to speak about their problems and anxieties. It’s seen as a threat to their manliness,” Mittal says. Her message reads: ‘You are not alone. #PickUpThePhone, lighten your mun.’

This is just a baby step in the effort to reduce the stigma around counselling, adds Sharma. “Most people don’t even know about the existence of services like iCALL. We hope that #PickUpThePhone will alleviate that problem to some extent.”

To participate:
Write or type your message out on a sheet of paper, making sure it is clearly legible.

Don’t forget to incorporate the hashtag #PickUpThePhone, and the iCALL helpline number (022- 2556-3291).

Take a selfie or a picture with the placard.

Email it to icallhelpline@gmail.com by October 6.

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