Why It’s Essential To Break The Deep & Damaging Silence On Mental Health Around Us

The plight of Indian women's mental health often goes unnoticed. Co-founders Vivek Satya Mitram and Pooja Priyamvada conceived the idea of the Bharat Dialogues Women & Mental Health Summit to address this.

Trigger Warning: This contains descriptions of mental health trauma and suicide, and may be triggering for survivors.

Author’s note: The language and phraseology used are not the author’s words but the terms and narrative popularly used for people living with mental illnesses, and may feel non-inclusive. It is merely for putting our point across better.

I have seen how horrifying was the treatment given to those with mental illness.

A man who was believed to be “possessed”

In the early eighties in my grandmother’s village in Himachal Pradesh, every winter vacation, one subject of curiosity for me besides village life was a man who used to be tied to a wooden pillar on the ground floor of his house with thick ropes. Sometimes he would be calm and composed, call us to go near him and he would smile at us kids and at other times he would be extremely agitated and throw pebbles at us or hurl abuses. The common belief was he was “possessed” but generally he was the target of ridicule and amusement for most.

I could never forget how he would howl and howl for food or water, while his wife worked to support their three kids. How he would be taken inside after sunset chained.

Its only now that when I look back at it, I realize he was not just living with a mental illness but also being abused by a family who didn’t know any better. He was not only denied treatment but also compassion and basic human rights. He passed away a few years later.

Many years later I met his wife who told me she had to give in to the panchayat’s demand to chain him.

The grieving mother institutionalised as “crazy” instead of taken care of

Several years later when I was a teenager, a neighbor lost her only son on his maiden journey aboard a merchant navy ship. Overnight his mother became someone else, she would keep talking to herself loudly, roam in the neighborhood alone at odd hours, attempted to kill herself. Finally, her husband put their other two kids in a boarding and her in an institution while he sailed.

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Met her daughter after almost a decade, and I came to know she was institutionalized for many years before she passed away. Her daughter said, “I still can’t forget how she suffered and how helpless we were.” She also talked about the stigma both she and her sister faced because of their mother’s illness for jobs and marriages and how it left their father also in chronic depression.

The tragedies of mishandled mental health issues all around us

These are two of the thousands of mental health tragedies around us. We would accept criminals back into the society but even those mental health patients who recover fully or partially after treatment are not accepted in families, in society. In the “connected but lonely” world of today we need to be even more sensitive to people who need a shoulder to rest their head on, a listening ear, a sympathetic gesture and professional help. Sometimes a little effort to let them vent and hear could save a life, could save a family.

As an Indian woman, I’ve witnessed the pervasive silence surrounding mental health in our society all my life. It’s a topic shrouded in stigma, swept under the rug, and seldom discussed openly. Despite being a buzzword, mental health remains an “untouchable” space, with few willing to confront it head-on. However, my journey as a survivor and advocate has led me to recognize the urgent need for change.

In recent years, social media platforms like Instagram have seen an influx of self-proclaimed mental health influencers. While their intentions may be noble, their approach often falls short, perpetuating toxic positivity in the guise of awareness. This phenomenon is particularly concerning as it trivializes the complex realities of mental illness, offering quick fixes and superficial solutions.

Women’s mental health issues surrounded by silence

Amidst this backdrop, the plight of Indian women’s mental health often goes unnoticed. While Women’s Day is celebrated annually with fervor, the conversation rarely extends to the psychological well-being of women. Instead, the focus remains on superficial discounts and promotions, neglecting the deeper issues at hand.

Fueled by these observations, my co-founder Vivek Satya Mitram and I conceived the idea of the Bharat Dialogues Women & Mental Health Summit.

Bharat Dialogues Women & Mental Health Summit

Our goal was simple yet ambitious: to initiate a multi-dimensional conversation about mental health, specifically tailored to the experiences of Indian women. We envisioned a platform where survivors, caregivers, professionals, and advocates could come together to share their stories, insights, and strategies for change.

The summit would serve as a catalyst for breaking the silence surrounding women’s mental health in India. It would provide a safe space for individuals to speak openly about their struggles, triumphs, and aspirations. Through panel discussions, workshops, and interactive sessions, participants would explore topics ranging from self-care and resilience to systemic barriers and cultural taboos.

I envision survivors bravely sharing their stories to experts offering valuable insights, every voice adding depth and resonance to the conversation.  I am aiming to find sensitive and sensitised Media coverage bringing attention to the issues discussed, sparking public discourse and policy debates. Local organizations launching initiatives providing much-needed support and resources to women in need. Most importantly, individuals who had previously suffered in silence finding solace in knowing they were not alone.

Tell your story

Tell your story.
Shout it. Write it.
Whisper it if you have to.
But tell it.
Some won’t understand it.
Some will outright reject it.
But many will
thank you for it.
And then the most
magical thing will happen.
One by one, voices will start
whispering, ‘Me, too.’
And your tribe will gather.
And you will never
feel alone again.
– L.R. Knost

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About the Author

Pooja Priyamvada

Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental health first aider, mindfulness & grief facilitator, emotional wellness trainer, reflective read more...

103 Posts | 563,527 Views

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