This year’s World Health Day has been appropriately themed around “Depression: Let’s Talk”. The term ‘depression’ is used very loosely. This is disturbing because clinical depression is serious mental health illness. Prolonged depression can lead to suicide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression and the figures are increasing. Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.
Talking about mental health, it is hearting and inspiring to see that Delhi-based organization, Sanjivini Society for Mental Health, has been providing relentless mental health service for free of cost for the past 40 years. Although it started in 1975 as a small group of individuals, inspired by Rev. Cha Varah, to set up a suicide prevention center in Delhi, eventually they figured the need for a holistic mental health approach.
Sanjivini is fully volunteer run. It gives an opportunity to everyone above the age of 21 to help those undergoing stress, anxiety or mental trauma. Yearly once they take in volunteers through a strict screening test and interview based method, as they are required to deal with delicate and significant issues concerning another person’s life. For the next four to five months there is an initial level of a rigorous training program to train counselors for the crisis intervention unit.
We are aware that mental illness and conditions are a taboo in our country, so if a person is under undue stress and feeling mentally unwell seldom does the person seek help. Also, one is quite caught up with day to day work and family life that most people tend to ignore mental conditions. Keeping this in mind people at Sanjivini carry out regular Community Outreach Programs. Such programs have played a major role in building up societal acceptance towards counseling. Working on the preventive aspects of mental health and its programs have aimed at dispelling ignorance and negative attitudes towards emotional problems; giving information on how such problems can be identified, prevented and on when and where to seek help. Volunteers visit social organizations, other NGOs, corporate houses, schools, colleges, hospitals, field workers, students, and various risk groups. The recent community activity has been with Air Force Wives Association, VIMHANS, Mother’s International School, Delhi Public School, Crime Against Women’s Cell, Delhi University, Modern School, Delhi Social Welfare Board, Inner Wheel Club, Manas, NCERT, Loyala College, Air Force (Allahabad), Lady Shri Ram College, TARSHI, Aman Biradari & NAZ Foundation.
Praveen Thapar, a Senior Volunteer at Sanjivni, shares a poignant and looming concern when she says, “There is too much information and the internet in sense of career choices, life partners, hobbies, things to be achieved that it has made choices for everyone very difficult. The definition of success has become very elusive, and all this is taking a toll on the mental well-being of people in general.”
In today’s fastidious world, the center responds to walk in, write to, or telephonic clientele. Some feel stressed, confused, distressed, helpless and hopeless, guilty, shame, or fear due to their problems. Some are lonely, but unable to talk to a family member. Yet, the need to share their feelings and talk to someone who would understand and help them find a solution that brings them to Sanjivini. Here, volunteers listen, befriend and provide support and reassurance, and most importantly, empowerment.
At Sanjivini, they also run a rehabilitation centre which helps people with schizophrenia regain their social skills and enhance their psychological resources so that they can cope with the world outside. Over the years the rehab centre has enabled thousands of people with mental illness across social & economic barriers to lead a life of dignity. The Sanjivini Society for Mental Health is currently under the Chairpersonship of Kavita Shriram and Directorship of Parul Khanna Parashar. Although as a principal the organization insists that they are a voluntary workforce beyond hierarchies with the sole aim to provide mental health services.
It is interesting to note that there are college students who also come by themselves and want to keep it confidential. These days we are aware of rising number of depression cases leading to suicide. The horrendous one that made to the news was on 3rd April(2017) when the 24-year-old jumped from 19th floor of Taj Lands End hotel in Mumbai. Yet, in general, people had no understanding and made fun comments on social media as to what could be wrong with life at that young age or if one is financially well off. It is difficult to change the thought process of people that mental illness has nothing to do with the social and cultural milieu, it could happen to anyone without showing any external symptoms.
It is seminal understanding that in cases of mental illness the relapse is high. To address this issue twice, every month an old client’s meet is also organized where clients who have been discharged spend an entire day at the organization. Through this, the center provides continuous support to them as these activities also provide clients with a routine, to inculcate a work habit and allow them an opportunity to pick up useful skills and develop confidence. In recognition of its contribution to society, Sanjivini has been honored with the Sanskriti Award (1982) and the Delhi Government award for valuable services rendered in 1998.
“There are so much of cultural and technological changes happening in our society right now. The issues range from nuclear families to single parents, to lack of familial support. One might be having thousands of friends on social media but if one wants to talk their heart out, they can’t reach out to one single person.”, says Praveen
If you ever come across anyone who confides in you that they are feeling mentally unwell kindly refer them to a trained counselor. If you feel stressed and would like to talk to someone or simply get some sessions of counseling, it is fine. Spread the word that visiting a mental health facility does not label one mad. #breakthetaboo
In Delhi, if you are above twenty-one and wish to volunteer or visit a mental health facility, do so, make the society a better place. Although there might be corporate and hospital mental health centers in Delhi, we share with you the details Sanjivini Society for Mental Health, which provides free services for mental wellness.
Sanjivini Society for Mental Health
Center 1: H Block North, Under Defence Colony Flyover, Jungpura Side, New Delhi – 110024
Ph: 24311918, 24318883 Timings: 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (Monday to Friday)
Center 2: A – 6, Satsang Vihar Marg Qutub Institutional Area South of IIT
New Delhi- 110067
Ph: 40769002, 41092787, 26864488 Timings: 10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (Monday to Saturday)
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