mental health; a stigma

Our emotional, psychological, and social well-being are all part of our mental health. It has an impact on the way we think, feel, and act. It also influences how we deal with stress, interacts with others, and make decisions. Mental health is vital at all stages of life, including childhood, adolescence, and maturity.

In recent times the topic of “mental health” has received a lot of attention, at least on the urban stage. People are starting to accept it as a “real” problem and are taking this topic positively. While mental health is a known cause of concern in cities, it still remains a stigma in rural India. The stigmas and misconceptions associated with mental health are a lot. People go through alienation and loneliness.

Fighting these stigmas and misconception is social worker, Sumitra Gargai.

Mental health is vital and a major cause of concern

Sumitra has a strong will and a sense of righteousness. Lets learn more about her struggles and the past she had to survive through. Helping others is only possible when you help yourself first.

a tale of tragedy and sorrow

Sumitra Gagrai from Jharkhand’s Naranga village married against her parent’s wishes shortly after finishing her Class 9 exams. Married against the will of her parents she had to survive doing menial jobs like selling vegetables. Things only became worse when she gave birth to three daughters over the years, despite her in-law’s desire for a male child. She was subjected to physical and emotional harassment from her in laws. Furthermore, her husband threatened to leave her if she failed to bear a male child.

Sumitra Gargai a social activist and a survivor ( source )

After years of being subjected to harassment, Sumitra fell into severe depression. Things seemed better when she came across the “ekjut” foundation in 2004. “Ekjut” is a civil society organization providing mental healthcare to marginalized communities. Sumitra benefitted greatly from their initiative, on many occasions she sat and shared her ordeals. Ekjut even offered her a job to help reduce maternal deaths and malnourishment.

While recovering, she once again came face to face with depression. In 2011, her own sister was diagnosed with depression. After delayed marriage arrangements, her sister felt dismal and dejected. Her parents treated her condition as superstitious and used “rituals” to treat her. Sumitra took her sister to Ranchi where a doctor put her on medication.

Her situation became exponentially worse after the barbaric treatment she received from her family. Her sister was perceived as “possessed” and heavily outcasted. Following this barbaric treatment, her sister finally ended up taking her own life.

Turning point and the fight against depression

Sumitra recovering herself was devastated by the loss of her sister. Sumitra against all odds started helping other’s as a means to heal herself. She is using medication, support group sessions with caregivers, and counselling to help people overcome the stigma and improve their health.

In 2017, she shifted to providing mental health support to the community. Owing to her own personal ordeals and fight, she could relate with all the victims. Sumitra helped a teenage girl recover who reminded her of her late sister. Seeing that girl recover gave her hope. Now invested full time, she accompanies Dr. Sachin and other volunteers. They travel from village to village spreading awareness and holding sessions.

A group session organized at “Ekjut” ( source )

The foundation holds meetings and sessions where like-minded people come together and talk. Often people with depression dont feel like talking and hide their problems. The foundation believes that when people are surrounded by people who relate to them, they open more. The foundation shares awareness and actively helps the people who approach them. Forming a close-knit community and bringing people together helps reduce loneliness as well.

Subjected to barbaric treatment, mental health is treated as a social stigma. Fighting this stigma from the very core, Sumitra and “Ekjut” is making an invaluable contribution to society.

Depression is a real problem and can affect the best of us. You don’t have to suffer alone if you feel depressed. Contact/ use these links, you aren’t alone. Sumitra and “Ekjut” and us, we all can help people overcome depression.

Know about more such change-makers:

ECO WARE: edible cutlery by Odisha’s Anusuya and friends.

Sunith Reddy and befriending with BeForest

DHAN Foundation for the Kaathiyanoor tank

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