Third in our series of women who advocate for mental health is a Mumbai based Clinical Psychologist.You’ve probably read her articles in Mumbai Mirror, heard her over the radio, or follow her on social media. She is an amiable keeper of secrets, an enthusiastic writer, and gets conversations going on various mental health themes such as anxiety, bullying, hope and resilience, mindfulness, and many more.
Sonali Gupta is a Mumbai based practising clinical psychologist for the last 16 years. She writes a weekly column around mental health titled ‘Terms of Engagement’ for Mumbai Mirror. Her upcoming book titled, Anxiety: overcoming it to live without Fear will be published by HarperCollins India in 2020.
How have you seen the mental health climate evolve in Mumbai?
I have been working as a psychologist since 2004, a lot has changed in the last 16 years. There is a greater awareness about mental health concerns, what has also changed is the vocabulary that people have when it comes to their mental health concerns. As a result of which lot more people reach out for therapy session as compared to before. At the same time, the levels of anxiety, concerns around relationships have significantly increased over the years.
How do you stay motivated everyday?
Self-care. What keeps me going on most days is seeing clients consistently show up and work through challenging times in their life. On most days work is a centering ritual in itself. Having said that, a lot of self-care rituals play a huge role in maintaining my personal wellbeing. I consciously have worked towards building meditation in on my daily life. A lot of personal writing, exercise keeps me going. Spending quality time with my family is a huge stabilising factor.
What concerns do you feel are unique to women’s mental health in India? And how do you think they can go ahead and take care of it?
Over the last few years so many more women have made it to the workforce and are holding high position but they struggle with being understood and accepted. While the lens of relationships has changed, women across age groups often find it very hard to articulate their opinions and even be heard. An attitude of constant judgment and labelling whether it’s to do with marriage, work roles or even relationship choices is coming in the way of their mental health. As Audre Lorde, a writer said “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Women need to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, whether it’s physically or emotionally.
How can women better support other women?
The problem is quite systemic and requires a holistic effort. Whether it’s through narratives of mentoring, more efforts at documenting the struggles women face on a daily basis or through media we need to keep the conversations going. The dialogue needs to begin at the grassroots level, across schools, colleges, communities where we create a space for support groups, resources that women can share and also use in challenging times. Finally changes at a policy level that safeguard the rights of women.
What do you think the future of Mental Health in India looks like?
What mental health in India requires is a lot of preventive work, work that is focussed on enhancing people’s emotional wellbeing on a daily basis. Learning to strengthen our ecosystem and building a community lens is a huge need for the country. Our villages and smaller towns need far more outreach work and an increase in access, availability and awareness about mental health.