A Unique Therapy Group In Mumbai Is Taking An Alternative Approach To Mental Health

A Unique Therapy Group In Mumbai Is Taking An Alternative Approach To Mental Health
Tarun Amarnani/Beyond Issues

Silence for many people can be peaceful and meditative, something they find comfort in and feel zen. But there are however those for whom it can be insidious in nature, an emptiness that leaves you alone with all the voices that you’ve suppressed for far too long. “It drove me mad,” says 24-year-old Bharat who, new to the city walked the empty silent streets in the dead of the night being reminded of everything he had left behind. The death of his grandfather, his own battle with a prolonged illness, and an ignorant family all started to slowly colour his thoughts rendering him unable to think, speak or even react to with those around him. He found himself losing control, slowly collapsing on the pavement in tears, not knowing what to do or whom to call. A few minutes later, the friend whom he was supposed to meet came looking for him, baffled to find him in that condition. She called the rest of the group and together they cajoled him as he opened up to them, or anyone for that matter, for the first time. As the night passed, Bharat felt better but his friend recognised his fragile state. He needed affordable professional help, that went beyond conventional methods and his friend knew exactly what to suggest – Beyond Issues.

Beyond Issues is a support community consisting of mental health professionals – psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists, wellness experts – as well as young psychology students/graduates who help facilitate community conversation. They believe that no problem is insignificant and could, and should be shared without hesitation at this friendly platform where people just need to walk in with an open mind to listen or talk about whatever is bothering them, all while maintaining confidentiality.

As per a recent survey, 60 million Indians suffer from mental illness. That’s larger than some countries’ entire population. The most disturbing aspect of these statistics perhaps lies in the fact that we have the highest suicide rate in the 15-39 age group as well. Skirting and shushing discussion on mental health issues is clearly not serving anyone, and in today’s digital age, it hasn’t gotten any easier. The constant need to create a certain image on social media platforms can harm (us and others viewing it) more than it does good. Moreover, for most people accessing care is at best expensive, and at worst completely out of reach.

“Everything we feel is real and needs to be given importance. It is very important to be able to share what we feel without any second thoughts. We’re not about unrealistic promises or get-happy-quick schemes. We’re about removing the stigma and barriers that prevent people from strengthening their emotional selves, offering a holistic approach to making every day better. To direct people on a path where they ask for help from reliable professionals and Beyond Issues supports them throughout their journey,” says Isha Kazi who founded this platform after she personally hit a low point around March last year. “All I wanted was to be able to reach out to someone who cares, even if it’s only for a hug. I had horrible encounters with mental health professionals which made it worse and this contributed to why I started Beyond Issues,” she adds. She was later joined in by Hemangi Vyawahare, a clinical psychologist who now is Isha Kazi’s partner at the organisation. Another psychologist Latika Suryavanshi, too is an integral part of Beyond Issues.

Finding emotional stability during life’s twists and turns isn’t easy. Beyond Issues hopes to facilitate a positive environment where those who face challenges to their mental health and emotional well-being can discuss the same without fear of judgment, devoid of financial obligations or any hidden agendas. The aim of this facilitation is to make people more open to forming a supportive community with access to conversations or the opportunity to have a dialogue with a professional. To achieve these goals they have various Support Groups for different age groups and in different parts of Mumbai. They direct people to a Mental Health Professional depending on their need, organise events with various art forms to create awareness, design customized workshops for Schools, Colleges, Organisations and Corporates. They are also working towards opening centres across different parts of the country.

A session in place. Image Source: Tarun Amarnani

The various types of events they’ve held so far range from having open discussions, closed groups talks about serious problems and also events that include poetry, visual arts, music, comedy and dance. Any art form that can help people express better. One of the events was held in an open space in Aarey Colony’s Chhota Kashmir where people involved themselves in group therapies, conversations and even treasure hunts. At their most recent event, ‘Utter The Unspeakable’, where they explored the various aspects of mental health with music, dance, poetry, comedy and visual art. In the past, they have also held suicide awareness workshops, elderly care and dealing with loss.

They feel that the minute people start enjoying themselves and are free from the burden of the stereotypes around mental health, they open up. Here, it is possible because the environment created is not serious and completely taboo free unlike regular sessions with a psychiatrist or mental health professional.

“Sometimes, we do not realise how important it is to address something we feel in such an intense manner and how it has an impact on our lives in different ways.”
Beyond Issues hopes to create a space which is bold enough to talk about everything, and yet, sensitive enough to cater to everyone as an individual.

The entry for group therapy, closed sessions and open ended conversations is free. The events are nominally priced to be able to pay the performers.

You can check out Beyond Issue’s Facebook page here.

To get in touch, write to them at isha@beyondissues.com.

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