Bringing Mental Health Out Of Closet

Published on 30 May 2017 . 6 min read

Lakshmi Sreenivasan, Founder, Cafe Counselmother of a 15 year old son with over 16 years of work experience in Sales, Marketing Service, and HR, left it all to start the Cafe. There’s a heart wrenching story behind her decision to start this cafe.

India only has 3,500 trained psychiatrists and even fewer psychologists. Creating social awareness and empowering counselors have been the focus of the Cafe.

The journey of Cafe Counsel began….

Sometimes we stumble upon the purpose of our lives in the most dreadful and painful situations.

I stumbled upon my life purpose with the passing away of my sister. She lost her life to at an early age. She was just 39, she battled cancer for 8 years and then succumb to short bowel syndrome caused due to cancer on 3rd of June 2016.

I come from a dysfunctional family, where my parents did not have a great relationship. And we lived separately with our grandmother.

The physical altercations and chaos during our childhood had affected my sister personality very negatively, she grew emotionally sensitive and fearful

More than her excruciating physical problem what affected her more was a lack of emotional support, someone who could give her an empathetic ear and caring sensitivity. Café counsel was born out of this agonizing situation.

Mental well being and the apathy shown towards it in India

Its ironical that people wear physical diseases as a badge of honor, I mean they feel ok to tell people that the had a brush with cancer, heart disease, pulmonary, neurological issues etc, but when it comes to mental health, we don’t consider it to be a serious issue and it’s mostly brushed aside. I have experienced in last 9 years of my practice, that people think “normal people” don’t have any mental issues and only mentally unstable “abnormal people” need mental help. And anyone if found visiting a counselor or taking psychological assistance is tagged as “Mad, Pagal hai."

It’s very appalling, because most who need help, hesitate because of lack of awareness and more than the Social Stigma. The numbers are rising alarmingly. We are almost sitting on a time bomb.

Facts and figures

The Indian government estimates that 6-7% of the population suffers from major to minor mental health issues, that’s approximately 70 million Indians. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by the year 2020, 20% of India’s population will suffer from mental health issues.

Cafe Counsel’s contribution towards alleviating mental health stigma

We at Cafe Counsel, are trying all we can to make people aware about:-

What is mental health,

Why it is important to address it,

What it feels like to suffer from depression, anxiety, abuse, trauma, grief etc.

And, not to ignore it before it’s too late.

Getting technology into the equation

We also realized, that we need to use technology to overcome this stigma. Our platform offers complete anonymity and confidentiality, where the users doesn’t need to reveal their identity and still can seek help from professional experts. All our experts are well trained in dealing with mental health issues. Our motto is “WhereYouMatter” none is left unheard at Café Counsel

Although one of our objective is fight the social stigma but we totally understand that people have right to chose, and incase they still wish to keep their struggle with mental health issues under cover, we absolutely accept that.

Since the sessions are anonymous, and they don’t have to reveal this identity, users find it’s comfortable in opening up and sharing their issues.

We get users every day who talk about intimate, sensitive and emotional issues with us with total ease. We have a few true inspiring stories shared on our website, but users have requested us to change their names. But as I said we accept everyone and offer a complete non-judgemental space.

The group which is the most vulnerable

It’s not that only women and youngsters are affected, men equally get affected. But our patriarchy Indian culture could be held partially responsible for men not reaching out for help. And culturally women are more likely to seek help.

Statistically, at any one time it is believed that one in five women (19.7%) and one in eight men (12.5%) are diagnosed with a common mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Factors affecting mental health:

  • Physical health

  • Socio economic background

  • Abuse/assault/physical-sexual violence

  • Family background/breakups

  • Grief/Loss/Trauma

  • Neurological

  • Drug/alcohol/substance misuse

  • Severe or long-term stress

  • Childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect

  • Social isolation or loneliness and many more

We are trying to collaborate with social ventures/organisations/NGOs where we can render our services.

We are also connecting with Corporate to make mental health as a part of employee welfare. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that by the year 2020, 20% of India’s population will suffer from mental health issues.

More than an opportunity we think it’s the need of the hour and it’s important we build a better tomorrow by making mental health accessible and convenient.

People are pushed to take extreme steps because others around them lack empathy, support and understanding of mental health. Increase in substance abuse, depression, anxiety is alarmingly disturbing.

We need to stand together and #SayNoToStigma because if we don’t stand up now by our loved ones, you never know you could be pushing them to a deadly dark hole.

We have taken the first step, and we know we have a very long journey ahead of us. But it would be far more meaningful if you join hands with us!

Come join us, Say no to Stigma! Let’s Talk Mental Health."

Lola Jutta
An unapologetic writer, budding travel enthusiast and a default optimist! Life is what you make out of it.

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