‘impact of pandemic on mental health has been multifold’

Lifestyle‘impact of pandemic on mental health has been multifold’

In an Interview with G20, Ekta Prakash Sharma, Director & CEO of Humanising Lives, talks about various initiatives her social enterprise, non-profit entity called Humanising Lives has taken.
Q. You have set out on an important mission to ‘humanise’ individuals who suffer, who are disturbed and troubled. How do you help people to do so?
A. Due to social stigmas and other factors, people feel the need to hide or deny their feelings of distress, anger, anxiety and emotional needs. With severe restrictions like lockdown, social distancing and vulnerability towards our collective future, the pandemic has definitely fuelled the intensity of these emotions and is directly impacting our physical health. We humans are social beings and living in a healthy society is very important for our prosperity.
Our physical and mental health have a cyclic and co-dependent structure. Mental health lays the foundation for physical health and if there is an imbalance both are equally affected.
Despite the inhibitions, people ultimately need to be heard, actively listened to; it doesn’t matter whether the issues are trivial or severe, but the only way to find solutions is to address the problems. And once the problems are addressed then only the impact can be reduced.
It is a process and it takes a lot of patience to bring desired results. It doesn’t necessarily translate into healing right from the start, rather, most of the time it brings out more undesirable emotions first. But to care about these ‘uncomfortable’ feelings is what we aim for. We have to care for them to repair them and what we don’t repair, doesn’t mend!
Q. What have been the mental, emotional, depression-related disturbances you have witnessed and addressed this year.
A. The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of citizens at large has been multifold and its consequences, like depression, anxiety and paranoia, will continue to affect us in the coming years.
The highly uncertain and rapidly changing socio-economic and healthcare landscape, globally, has put all of us in harm’s way. No one is safe and everyone has had to deal with some form of anxiety and turmoil.
For instance, coping with long-distance relationships with our loved ones, having to constantly adapt to the new normal whether its lockdown or post lockdown, with challenges like work from home, no access to separate spaces be it professional, personal or recreational, unable to maintain boundaries with families etc. are just some of the challenges encountered by people on a daily basis.
The economic fall has created a sudden halt in people’s aspirations, careers and lifestyles, forcing us to shift perspectives and priorities. Without addressing these major life changing events there is a spiral of symptoms manifesting in people, such as loss of appetite, anhedonia, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, binge eating and constant restlessness. We have been trying to do the best to provide quality therapy sessions held by the team of our esteemed psychologists.
The work includes:
Free Pro Bono Counselling and Psychotherapy Project. The free psychotherapy project is supported by a leading psychologists in Delhi, along with  team devoting 6-7 hours each day. Since May 2020, Humanising Lives has provided over more than 1000+ pro bono therapies. The project further includes responding many others on e-mail and social media Dms about their worries and daily problems.
The latest initiatives include  Reintegration and  Rehabilitation Programs with Dr. Kiran Bedi’s India Vison  Foundation  wherein the organization is providing psychotherapy and counselling to ex-offenders from different prisons as part of the prison rehabilitation program.
Sessions on “Reproductive Healthcare” and “Mental and Emotional Well-Being” for women prisoners in association with India Vision Foundation.
Sessions with Transgenders during on evidence-based breathing and meditation techniques to help clear their mind, drop stress, and relieve anxiety during the lockdown 2020.
Partnered with Dr. Madalina Yellico, Clinical Psychologist -New York (Trained in evidence-based practices) for an online sessions on self-care for mothers and how mindful parenting can positively benefit your child’s mental health, happiness, and well-being during the lockdown, as well as some simple ways to be a calmer and more mindful parent.
I am passionate about helping people in every way possible, especially when it comes to the matter of Mental health and well being. This passion drives me to work tirelessly and becomes more rewarding with every happy client. The aim is to achieve a reformed and balanced life for all our clients and when that happens all our efforts are justified. I also have the support of a strong team and together we have created a platform which we believe can support people in these challenging times.
Q. How has funding worked and supported the work that you are doing at ‘Humanising Lives’?
A. We are still in the early stages of our journey and are constantly seeking good funding resources. Currently we are banking on the personal social responsibility of each member of the team. I am personally investing all my time, effort, energy and money. We believe donating resources should be an active decision where cash is not the only priority, we could donate our time, education, support and infrastructure. What is important is the intent and motivation behind it, as it’s their motivation that creates a special purpose for the donor as well.
Nevertheless, we understand that it’s not possible for everyone to contribute their time and money, hence support of any form is truly appreciated.
Q. We are in the midst of an unprecedented mental health crisis. How are you handling it and helping people.
A. I believe India has always been preoccupied by its basic survival needs of sustenance in our overpopulated and economically backward climate. This need is completely justified. No arguments. But in this race of survival we end up ignoring many important aspects, like our mental health. This amplifies the possibility of burnout in our people, especially in the present conditions of global and national crisis. The stress on our citizens is massive, as their resilience continues to be tested in a grave manner.
It is thereby extremely important for people to acknowledge and actively engage in conversations around mental health, stress at work and personal life. To be heard is an underrated service, to put your thoughts across to another person is a daunting challenge. But we are trying to bridge the gap by building a social media community that actively highlights such issues and helps detangle mental pressures as its main priority.

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