“My therapist tried to convince me that I was a lesbian,” laughed one Homegrown writer when the theme of seeking help for mental distress came up. Only 16 at the time, it may not have left her scarred for life, but it was telling of the larger malaise that surrounds the topic in a country as resistant towards the idea of therapy as India. It also shaped her views towards mental health professionals for many years to come.
Mental health and its related illnesses are a vastly tricky terrain to traverse when it comes to Indian society, regardless of the millions of people that are silently suffering. Between immense societal shunning, sidelining it during our schooling, a complete lack of understanding towards mental health issues, an apathetic government at best and the possibility of incompetent mental health professionals even after you get past the first few barriers means many Indians forfeit the chance to get treated for serious mental health conditions. Even more remain afraid to even try. It’s simple, we don’t talk about it. It’s not thought of something that should be openly spoken about – log kya kahenge?
Anxiety, Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa are just a few of the commonly known conditions on the mental health spectrum that have been brought into everyday discourse mostly through pop culture. While the knowledge that these even exist is a step in the right direction, their depiction has been far from just or realistic over the year. It’s no wonder then that we’ve grown to fear falling into those very caricatures ourselves by opening up to those around us.
We, at Homegrown try our best to further normalisation of conversations regarding mental health, living with mental illness and seeking therapy, and create a safe space for such dialogue to take place. The stigma is very real, as are the growing number of initiatives and awareness campaigns that have sprouted across the country. Marbles Lost & Found is a new initiative that popped up on our radar; a podcast by Avanti Malhotra and Zain Calcuttawala, aimed at raising awareness about mental health and its importance in our daily lives. “We’re here to say that mental health and illness - just like physical health and illness – is totally normal! We want to empower people to talk about it, because, really, it’s okay to do so!” they say.
It all started with a Facebook post by Zain over a year and a half ago, where he bravely opened up about his own struggles with depression on the public forum. A Music Producer by profession, he wrote of his desire to do something to raise awareness about mental health, and a number of people reached out, writing about their own experiences, asking about recommended therapists, among other questions and feedback, and one among them was Avanti, who went through her own battle with good mental health, and is now a mental health professional herself.
We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Marbles’ first episode, and listening to Avanti and Zain speak feels like a conversation you’d be having with close friends. There is a sense of familiarity, not just with the vulnerability and honesty with which they speak but you also get the feeling that this is something that you can truly relate to – something that you yourself have felt and thought at some point in your own lives. And that is what makes Marbles so special.
They open up about their experiences, their personal journeys and triumphs, what brought them together and made them want to open up the conversation to other listeners through the podcasts. Zain’s Facebook post brought together not just the two of them, but a whole team of people including Ujaala Chaudhuri (ad producer), Nisha Vasudevan (film director and animator), and Shadaab Kadri (social media manager/vlogger/music producer), whose shared experiences have given Marbles authenticity and a feeling of earnestness that pours through their words as you listen.
The first episode really sets the stage for what the duo wants to accomplish, and Avanti shared that their 25-minute-long episodes will touch upon a range of subjects from masculinity and emotions, mental health in pop culture to busting myths about mental illnesses like schizophrenia. There are episodes like Therapy 101 and another on caregiving for a family member who has depression – they speak to mental health professionals and people suffering from mental illnesses. Some of the guests they’ve had on board so far include Tejas Menon, a musician and part of the podcast Geek Fruit, Gaurav Malaker (BLOT!) and Alishiya Halaney, a therapist who is based in South Bombay. “All the episodes have Zain and I (and our guests) sharing our own personal anecdotes so we can convey the message that there’s really no shame in sharing,” says Avanti.
Produced by the Marbles team and IVM Podcasts, the first episode of Marbles Lost & Found is now streaming, with new episodes out every Tuesday. You can listen to the podcast on the IVM App or website, on Saavn, YouTube, SoundCloud, Audioboom, and HeadFone.
This article is part of Homegrown’s month-long campaign called #HGHeadspace leading up to Mental Health Awareness Week. If you’d like to share your mental health journey with us, write in to [email protected]
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