Week #6 – Women who Advocate for Mental Health

Richa Vashista, (she / her) is a Mental Health Professional working in the intersections of Gender and Sexuality since 2014. She has a Masters in Clinical Psychology from SNDT University, Mumbai. She provides therapy, speaks at various forums, conducts training and workshops on Mental Healthcare, LGBTQ and Gender Sensitization, for colleges and companys.

Energetic!

Meet energetic and empathetic Richa who works tirelessly towards Mental Health Care!

I got my Masters in Clinical Psychology in 2014 from SNDT University, Mumbai, and till then, not many people around me understood mental health and associated what I am studying to a specialisation to treat the ‘pagal’ (mental). Since then, till now, a lot of my work has been around mental health advocacy and questioning the ideology behind what’s normal and what’s not. Over all, the awareness around mental health has been on a slow rise where colleges, organizations and companies are finding the need to address issues of the human mind. A lot of my work from 2014-2018 included working with LGBTQ individuals and addressing their mental health needs through psychotherapy and group sessions. My observation is that, some corporates have included Mental Health and LGBTQ as two important areas under Diversity and Inclusion. We are slowly shifting from pathologising mental health issues, to addressing it as conditions that can happen to anyone, which helps reduce the stigma attached to it. What I love about my work, is being engaged with two taboo topics: MENTAL HEALTH and LGBTQ and observing the change in attitude in people I interact with.

On regular days, I try to maintain a work life balance which helps me stay motivated with all that I have planned to do. When indoors, like right now (during COVID-19), I find purpose in the little things I do, whether its cooking or speaking with people close to me about anything and everything. For example, right now, I have some interesting ideas brewing and I am speaking to some people on how to execute them. Holding on to such moments do keep me motivated. However, I feel that staying motivated everyday is an unrealistic expectation, so, on days when I am finding it difficult to ‘keep going’, I take a pause and remind myself that – it is okay to feel this way and I can focus on being motivated tomorrow.

While constantly reminding my clients and people around me to focus on self care, I’d like to confess that it isn’t easy to focus on my own self on most days. As a health care practitioner, I am constantly on the side trying to provide support, which makes it difficult to focus on myself. I still try, by taking baby steps, to focus on self-care by doing the following things:
Organizing- My favorite activity. You will find me folding my clothes once in two weeks, as that helps me unclutter my mind.
Cooking- I find cooking very therapeutic and can have a nice session with myself in the kitchen while cooking a meal.

Women in India are highly affected by Patriarchy and Gender Inequality, which are contributing factors to a lot of mental health conditions in women. Working women have to constantly prove their worth at work and still manage to find a balance with their role as home makers, since their responsibilities are perceived to be more than the men of the house. During women focused corporate workshops, I find most women using that space to express their feelings and emotions in a cathartic manner. Home makers are under valued and usually not given agency, which makes them question their self worth. As I closely work with Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer women (LBQ), I have noticed women struggle to come out of the closet due to a double stigma – that of being a woman, the suppressed gender, with a sexuality that won’t be accepted by the society.

Going ahead, women must focus on their mental health needs, where as, the society, as a collective, should question patriarchal practices. The raging feminist movement in India along with women fighting for their human rights, is the way forward.

Women can support other women with empathy, as most women have gone through / go through similar situations in their life. Women can also appreciate and acknowledge each other for the bravery they show, on a daily basis. My role as a women is to push other women out of their comfort zones and encourage them to achieve what they want.

The focus on mental health has been increasing and will only grow. Slowly, but steadily, various individuals, families, institutions, organisations and corporates are accepting and finding ways to bridge the gap. There will come a day when mental health will be given as much, if not more, importance than physical health. With an ever increasing number of Indian mental health initiatives, such as yours, the future definitely looks hopeful.

Follow Richa online

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