Mental health is a topic of embarrassment in India. The society considers anybody going for counseling or therapy as ‘mental’ or ‘damaged.’ They tell you to ‘cheer up’ or ‘Life is like this’ and ‘Deal with it.’ Institutions like Aasra are striving hard to support people who need mental care and aid.
The world is an unkind place. Recession, globalization, increasing competition, inflation, peer pressure and loneliness are all real issues we undergo. The younger generation is battling a lot of things at the same time. The ideals set by the older generation are tough to match. Marriage, relationships and children are all pushed further and further as we struggle to stand on our own feet. Divorce is easier and very common. Getting a job in a country which has the largest working force in the world is a challenge. No wonder that so many of us battle mental illnesses and trauma every day.
Mental illness is a stigma in Indian society. Parents repress the anxiety of their children because they wonder what others might think. Relatives treat depression as a trivial issue and joke about it. Friends label the person ‘moody’ or ‘unstable’ instead of actually trying to empathize. Aasra is an organization founded specially to give mental support, counseling, therapy and resources for anyone through their helpline or walk-in centers. Founded in 1998, they are based in Vashi.
Students as young as 12-13 have suicidal thoughts. The pressure on them to achieve high marks and grades is enormous. Everyone tells them that their future will be decided by the grades they achieve. Matching the expectations of indulgent parents can be a tremendous task. The schooling system is another factor that pushes them to the edge. Your marks can determine your college, your college determines your job and your job determines your life. That kind of pressure and stress can break a fragile teenager. School, tuitions, extra-curricular activities and studies is just some of the things they have to juggle. These depressed, anxious and worried students feel like the world is ending when they get bad marks or near the exams. Their suicidal talks are dismissed by their parents or family members as attention seeking tactics. ‘Stop being dramatic’ is a retort these kids often hear. A lot of them contemplate suicide seriously and even commit it after the results. Aasra is the one safe number for them to call and talk to, vent their feelings out. While it would be great if the school system or parents provided them counseling but till then Aasra is their best option.
With a 24 hour helpline, Aasra is open to everybody and anybody. They assure you of anonymity and your personal information is not shared with anybody else.
Depression is a monster with several heads. It is not that it may strike poor or needy people. It can be in the loud laugh of your friend who has a great job and family. It can be the cheery smile of a housewife who spends her day alone waiting for her children and husband. There is no one single reason why somebody is depressed or suicidal. And until they reach out and ask for help, there is nothing anybody can do. Aasra allows for the anonymity of a helpline, which has a kind and willing ear on the other end. They listen to your pain, they understand your darkness and they know your emotions.
While none of the volunteers or employees at Aasra is licensed medical professionals, they are kind and patient. A depressed, lonely or suicidal person may just want a sympathetic listener. Somebody who doesn’t judge or advice or question them. Misery loves company and you can be assured of a great listener and comforter at Aasra. This non-religious and non-political organization is an offshoot of Befrienders Worldwide and Samaritans.