The lockdown has affected people in many ways, some visible and some not so visible. Mental health is one such not-so-visible effect and Ritu Bharadwaj of Connected-Women for Women feels it cannot be avoided any further. With Lockdown and semi-lockdown going on for so long, it has started affecting people psyche and the time has come to talk about it openly so more and more people benefit.
Mental health issues have become the need-of-the-hour. And the good thing is that people are more receptive to discussions and talks about mental health. Having time on hand also played a major role and realising that they are not the only ones going through stress helped them express their anxieties openly and work on them too.
The Mental Health Group run by Ritu has been very active during the entire lockdown to create awareness about the subject, reach out to maximum people and help people stay afloat in these psychologically challenging times. Being an online platform, they increased their online activities and webinars and creating new content regularly to create awareness on various mental health issues, how to recognise the symptoms and solutions.
This is the current story of Ritu Bharadwaj and her mental health group, but the story started in 2019 on 18t March when she started the Facebook group, so let us start from the beginning.
The awareness about mental health issues among people is a subject that is close to Ritu Bharadwaj and she feels that Lockdown has managed to bring out a very crucial issue to the fore. Being someone who has seen depression from close quarters, even though for a short while, understands the importance of acknowledging the condition, talking about it, and finding resolutions.
Ritu is happily married with an understanding husband, supportive in-laws and two healthy children. Despite everything going right, Ritu had a difficult second pregnancy, not because there were medical issues, but because she was mentally disturbed, and no one could understand her problems. The thought of managing a home and two young kids was bothering her but her professional situation was stressing her out completely. Her first pregnancy and taking care of her son later had put her career on hold for a few years and the same will happen again was playing on here mind constantly. She was not sure if she will be able to start her career all over again or this will be the end of it. By the third trimester, things started getting out of hand and she thought that her second child maybe a special child. She discussed this with her gynaecologist and talking and counselling helped her nerves to calm down and she had a normal child.
Despite a normal delivery, Ritu’s condition during pregnancy bothered her. So, she started reading about it and realised that she was not the only one going through this. There is a term for her situation called Post-partem depression.
As she started meeting people and discussing this, she realised that lot of them were in a similar situation. Motherhood for centuries has been a very normal part of a woman’s life and no one ever gave much heed to it but now the times are changing. With more and more woman having an active professional and social life makes it challenging to deal through early motherhood and the anxiety of losing a career is a big issue.
Ritu realised that there was neither much awareness about the subject nor much literature available. There were few psychologists addressing the issue, but they were very expensive and out of reach for most people.
And thus, was born Ritu’s third child – Connected – Women for Women on 18th March 2019. Though her friends and family supported her, but the support came with doubts and uncertainty.
And that why, when Ritu started contacting people to join the group, she wrote to strangers who she felt would understand her concern and be unconditionally supportive. Ritu searched on Facebook for gynaecologist, psychiatrists, psychologists and people vocal about the issue of post-partem depression and sent them messages. She was happy to get favourable responses.
In fact, her co-admins on the group are also two women whom she did not know earlier. She wrote to her co-admin Rajani Sen also on Facebook in the similar fashion. Ritu had read a few articles by Rajani and felt that she would be perfect for the group, so wrote to her. And Rajani agreed readily. Ritu and Rajni were going through similar phase of life at that time.
And Priyanka Rai is also part of the core team. Though Ritu and Priyanka stay in the same society, they had ever met before. But when Priyanka heard about the concept, she was convinced and joined the group and has been a strong pillar of support since beginning. She has always stood by Ritu whether to go for meetings, engage with people or planning further activities and events.
There was of lack of forum to address such issues of mental health is proven by the fact that that the group has been expanding steadily. Infact ina span of a year, the group has crossed 4000 members. More experts have joined in. more and more women are expressing themselves openly. As a result, the canvas of the forum was also expanded from focussing on post-patem to addressing mental issues in general.
Connected-Women for Women is a closed group, but there were requests from lot of people, including men, so Ritu started an open page too for Connected (NEED LINK) which has already crossed 1000 followers in a short span and the number of men surpasses the women in the open group. The idea is to make the forum more inclusive so that the taboo on mental health can be removed.
They have organised ground events on special women-centric occasions to reach out to more women and create awareness about mental health and depression. Ending one’s life is not the solution but understanding and getting over the depression is.
Though Ritu has been devoting a lot of time to her passion project but was not yet earning from it and still depended on her journalism job for financial independence, she was happy with progress of the group. Once the women overcome their mental discrepancies, they amazed others with their talent. Thus, Ritu and her group were thinking to make the group economically and environmentally viable for its members and long-term sustenance.
The things were on-track and going well for the group when the lockdown happened. But the fighter spirit of the women of Connected Group didn’t deter them, but got them rethinking about their promotion strategies.
In fact, they are thankful to lockdown that it has brought the mental issues to the fore and the taboo attached to it is rapidly diminishing.
Wishing ritu and team a loud applause for the great initiative and wishing them all the success!
May the mental issues be a thing of past soon, just like coronavirus.