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Chandigarh’s novel support group aims to break down stigma around mental health issues

Brainchild of Kriti Pahuja, a pass-out of Panjab University’s School of Communication Studies, Rangmanch’s meet-ups came into being after she noticed the gap between counsellors, psychiatrists and mental health patients.

punjab Updated: Jun 21, 2018 11:25 IST
Aneesha Bedi
Aneesha Bedi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
mental health issues,Chandigarh,Panjab University
Focusing on building dialogue in public spaces and cafes, the meet-ups exhort participants to recite poems, read out from their personal diaries, and offer something as simple as a hug to the next person.(HT Photo)

“Kuch sawalat — Dur tarak kuch dikhne laga hai, kya aankhon mein siraab jhalakne laga hai, kissi ki tabiyat nakhush hone lagi hai, kya zindagi ka sabak usse milne laga hai, ab kisse karenge haale-e-dil bayan? Kyun sab par aitbaar mitne laga hai? Aur kya woh jo saath khade thhe kabhi, kya wajood unka girne laga hai?...”

These verses recited by Soumya Joshi were among many that had the participants thinking about mental health at a talk organised by a novel support group “Rangmanch” recently. An assortment of people, from teenagers to senior citizens shared their journey with depression and mental health issues.

Brainchild of Kriti Pahuja, a 24-year-old pass-out of Panjab University’s School of Communication Studies, Rangmanch’s meet-ups came into being after Pahuja noticed the gap between counsellors, psychiatrists and mental health patients.

Noticing among her peers that traditional treatment for depression was not always the right answer, Pahuja decided to arrange for a space where anyone could talk freely about stress, anxiety, and depression.

Focusing on building dialogue in public spaces and cafes, Pahuja at the meet-ups exhorts participants to recite poems, read out from their personal diaries, and offer something as simple as a hug to the next person.

The event was held in collaboration with #SocialSpeakEasy campaign at a cafe in Sector 7. The campaign aims to initiate a discourse around topics considered stigma or taboo in society. This was the second edition of Rangmanch; the first was held in April at a Panchkula cafe.

Kriti shares the meet-ups are non-commercial in nature with free entry. She and her team of volunteers aim to reach out to all stratas of society, and rely on social media and word of mouth to spread word whenever a meet-up is organised.

Talking depression

Majority at the gathering were of the view that mental health suffers from an image problem. One of every four children suffers from depression before reaching 15, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report. Yet, less than 10% consult a doctor, as per the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16.

Sumeet Gill, in his middle 50s, attended the event with his children and best friend. A happy-go-lucky person outwardly, Sumeet shared his battle with depression after being forced into becoming an engineer at a young age, and then standing as a pillar of support for his wife after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Amy Singh, poet and social activist, shared some healing techniques to tackle depression, and spoke about fighting depression after her three suicide attempts. She shared how social media acted as a parallel universe in the lives of those suffering from depression.

Naiyya Vinayak, a 23-year-old, got a standing ovation as she struggled to control her tears while sharing her struggle with depression due to an ignorant family and an abusive relationship in the past.

As guests sought clarifications on what counted as depression and what didn’t, psychologist Amandeep gave insights into various mental health issues.

First Published: Jun 21, 2018 11:25 IST