Mental health awareness is making its way to the limelight in India. Given the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, tireless efforts of a few women are shaping how we differently we perceive the subject now.
Here are seven women in India’s mental health space who are putting their heart and soul into creating a more inclusive society.
Shipra Dawar is a mental health entrepreneur who identified that in a country of over 1.3 billion people, less than 1% of the population is seeking help for their mental illnesses. It was her personal struggle with depression that gave her the push to provide a helping hand to others like her who might be hesitant to seek help.
In 2015, she founded ePsyClinic, an online platform that allows patients to connect with psychiatrists and psychologists via text, audio and video chat.
An alumnus of Australian National University, where she did bachelor's and MBA, Shipra hopes to make healthcare services accessible to anyone and everyone.
Anna Chandy is the chairperson of The Live Love Laugh Foundation(TLLLF) that was founded by Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone. TLLLF has launched multiple initiatives such as #DobaraPoochho and #YouAreNotAlone School Program, to bust various taboos surrounding mental health.
Chandy is India’s first supervising and training transactional analyst accredited by the International Transactional Analysis Association, with a specialisation in counselling. She is also certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming and Art Therapy. Anna stepped into the field of counselling when she was 30 years old, as a freelancer at Vishwas, a non-profit organisation where she was soon offered the position to be a Board member.
Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar
Dr. Lakshmi Vijaykumar’s motto is preventing suicide. For decades she has worked in the field of mental health as a researcher, consultant, and psychiatrist. She has worked on creating awareness around suicide, which is rising rapidly in India. Besides writing multiple papers on the subject, she also launched Sneha, a suicide prevention center, in 1986.
For her exemplary work in the field, she has received numerous accolades, and was the first woman Fellow at the Roual College of Psychiatrists, UK.
She has played a key role in including suicide prevention in Mental Healthcare Bill that was passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2016.
Richa Singh spearheads the online counseling and emotional support platform called YourDost, a forum to foster mental wellness. It allows people to connect with mental health professionals anonymously so that they can communicate without inhibitions.
Richa was inspired to start up in mental health after her roommate at IIT Guwahati committed suicide due to extreme pressure with regard to job placements. She then identified multiple problems such as anxiety during exam preparation and fear of failure. This led her to build YourDost as system to help people improve their mental health. Currently the YourDost team has over 200 experts, 20 full time employees and has helped more than 2,00,000 lives.
Monica Kumar is a clinical psychologist who has developed prolific awareness campaigns and social forums that aims to normalise treatment for mental health concerns. She founded Manas Foundation 20 years ago to help the broader community, especially the underprivileged sections of society, with their mental health concerns.
The Manas Foundation runs mental health awareness programs in Delhi schools and corporate organisations. Its campaigns include well known artists, photographers and Bollywood actors who talk about various mental health issues at events. Monica has been awarded the EdelGive Social Innovation Honour for her work with underprivileged women, by providing psycho-social rehabilitation and care.
At the age of 22, Reshma was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Her first step towards regaining the identity she felt stripped of, she took to painting. Soon after she started volunteering with the Schizophrenia Awareness Association (SAA) in Pune where she had the liberating experience of sharing her perspectives and carrying out various discussions.
Reshma thrives to create and build a community of people who are committed to the idea of self advocacy of people with mental illnesses. To share her story, Reshma collaborated with filmmaker Aparna Sanyal for A drop of Sunshine, a documentary film which went on to win the National Award for Best educational film.
Dr. Prabha Chandra
Head of the Psychiatry Department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, Dr. Prabha Chandra specializes in women’s mental health and prenatal psychiatry. She has contributed to multiple articles and videos for White Swan Foundation, an NGO that works in mental health, on topics such mental wellbeing during pregnancy, eating disorders, body image issues, and depression.
She has also served as a temporary advisor at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS. She is also the Secretary of the International Association of Women’s Mental Health, and had won Silver Jubilee award for best outgoing student in MD Psychiatry, NIMHANS.