“The worst part about having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”
– Joker (The Movie)
In a country like ours, talking about mental health is still a taboo. The people who struggle with mental health issues have to hide the fact and suffer silently. Else, they would be judged, talked about inappropriately and so on. Even in the 21st century, we have a dire need to come at peace with mental disorders. Breathlessness due to anxiety should be given equal importance as not being able to breathe in case of asthma. The irony is our country is okay with the intake of the medications prescribed for diseases like diabetes but that’s not the case with illnesses like clinical depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and the list goes on.
What Made TalkItOut Shape Up?
“I volunteered in Har Haath Kalam which gave me a motivation of helping people in need,”
Manan Chawla tells.
Manan Chawla, the founder of TalkItOut (1) was raised and brought up in Narwana, a town in Haryana. Being a single child, he was pampered a lot in his house. He had an amazing childhood but he now considers the child him to be an immature kid. Just like millions of students dedicating their teenage years studying for competitive examinations like JEE Mains and Advance, he did the same. He got into Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology in the year 2014. He got exposure to mental health on the campus itself. Though the reason behind taking an initiative towards mental health was because he went through a rough patch in his life about four years ago. He says that he was going through a really bad phase in his life. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks were no strangers to him. It was the year 2016 when he was struggling with these issues and mental health was comparatively less-known by back then. Sadly, he cannot recall a single day for one whole year when he did not feel the fear of dying. He once even texted the people close to him a warm goodbye paragraph while dealing with a panic attack and losing hope.
Having a few supportive friends in his life, who stood by him during his 4 AM anxiety attacks made his life a bit bearable. It took him another year to deal with mental health issues without any medications or doctors. At that moment it struck him with the thought of so many people who exist around him and are struggling with similar issues. He then started with a bunch of people he knew who had an inclination towards mental health. They simply used to sit together and just talk. Talk about their lives which weren’t in sync. Slowly the group of friends turned into more of a family who could talk about anything and everything with each other and had each other’s back. It became a safe space for all of them to share their honest feelings without fearing about being judged by.
A Strong Foundation
“TalkItOut is a baby kid to me. I’ve had sleepless nights, moments of happiness and fear, an exciting roller coaster journey with it,”
Manan says that he along with his group planned to formally announce themselves as a team in search of people like them just to help the ones in need. Soon enough, more and more joined in as all it needed was an initiative.
Then they built a close-knit team with similar mindsets of eliminating the stigma attached to mental health. They started to conduct events like “Puppy Therapy” and “Baatein” which made them gain a lot of fame in and around the campus.
Puppy Therapy is one of the events TalkItOut is known for. While going through mental health issues himself, he researched a lot about it. Therapy, the kinds of therapy, anxiety, how to control the cycle of negative thoughts, etc. During his research, he came across a kind of therapy called ‘dog therapy’ which was practised in the US. There are hostels in the USA having dogs which visit the people living inside which is considered to create a therapeutic effect.
On similar lines, he came up with the idea of starting an event in Patiala called “Puppy Therapy”. They rented puppies and dogs of numerous breeds and arranged a place filled with love and laughter. Dogs are believed to be the best kind of therapists. People just sit beside them, play with them, run after them and it just makes them forget all their worries. Their first-ever Puppy Therapy which was conducted in the year 2017 was a big hit. Thus, they continued to conduct the event in the subsequent years in Patiala as well as in Chandigarh.
They also did psychometric tests before and after puppy therapy. The results proved that the people, who weren’t in a good mood before attending the event, came out happier. The ones, who were already positive, came out of the event with a more positive score.
Baatein is their other main event which is conducted once a year. Manan was inspired by Ted Talks (2). He aspired to make the less heard voices from the campus who did something worth sharing to be heard. This event too gave people a positive approach towards life.
The Harsh Reality
“Counselling has changed the way I think,”
He believes that counselling is a long process. Along with the therapy session, one needs to focus on their diet, meditation and medication provided. Unfortunately, there is a lack of direction in the people. Most of the people who are suffering, don’t even know that there is a medical term attached to what they are feeling. He states the following points:
1. Lack of resources: He says that the people don’t have a clarity of what they are going through. People don’t go for a therapy session until and unless their mental health starts hindering their performance in day to day life.
2. Therapy is costly: Therapy in India is till date very costly. A common man cannot afford to take one session per week which is advisable. A majority of people while seeking therapy, attend a few sessions, start feeling a bit better and then discontinue them. He believes that this is the worst thing someone can do to himself. Therapy is an ongoing process which requires regularity. But, it being out of the pockets leads to the prevailing statistics of anxiety and depression in India.
3. No database of psychologists: He further states that there isn’t any maintained database of therapists. People should be offered a beforehand knowledge about psychologists about what type of situations they handle well and what are the drawbacks their previous clients faced, etc.
4. No provision of free help: He says with remorse that there isn’t any free help available. He strongly believes that there should be volunteers who just listen to the problems people are facing and they can guide them if they need some professional help or not.
These are some loopholes in the industry that he is still working on to help out people.
“He aspires to see a world where mental health is not treated is a luxury but a necessity”
Acceptance is the sole key
“I think that mental health and mental illness are two different things. Taking care of your mental health is way more important before it grows into becoming a mental illness,”
Manan tells us.
Accepting that you are facing some mental health issue is the first and the hardest step. The majority of people live their lives in ignorance. They are just not ready to come to terms with their reality and worse, they are ashamed of accepting it. He feels that if people started to take care of their mental illness by indulging in self-care practices, the statistics of the people with mental illnesses will gradually decrease. Mental illnesses like anxiety disorder and depression are clinical terms which are often led by a lack of good mental health. He advises the readers to start working upon their mental health at early stages. Mindfulness, yoga, exercising, running, taking care of physical health, they all come under self-care which most of us often neglect.
The vision of Manan Chawla
“TalkItOut has been a beautiful journey with ups and downs and a lot of realisations. I’m an entirely different guy now. It has become me. It is what I want to see grow.”
Manan is eagerly waiting for a better world to live in. He can go on and on in a hope of eliminating the stigma attached to mental health. He is now planning to conduct fundraisers and sponsorships which can be proved beneficial for the people in need. All he wants to do is help others. He desperately wants to lend an empathetic ear and a helping hand to the people who are going through a phase which he was in at some point in time. He wishes everyone a very happy World Mental Health Day and sends tons of happy vibes across.