I moved to Delhi from a small city, with a dream to do a Ph.D. However, it is not easy to survive in a metropolitan city without financial support. Then, I got an opportunity to work with Sambandh in January 2016 with reference from a friend. My main reason to join Sambandh was to earn money and sustain myself in the city.
Before joining Sambandh Health Foundation, I had never worked in the area of Mental Health, nor did I ever think of addressing my own. I just thought physical health was of utmost importance and only took care of it. I went through headaches and anxiety and was prescribed medication to get rest and sleep at night. I thought that it was happening because of the work pressure. But it was deeper and I was still oblivious to it, like many of us are.
I have cherished a dream that I would work with marginalized communities, all my life. So, when I entered Sambandh, the other purpose was to understand marginalization through intersectionality. When I entered their Community Integration Centre (CIC), I found the place to be chaotic, there seemed to be no visible structure. I was nervous and confused and could not distinguish between who were the beneficiaries (we call members) and who was the staff. CIC is a unique place in itself, I have never seen any place where people who are living with disabilities working together in an inclusive environment. I found the members welcoming, and curious to know about me.
I kept thinking, how to strike a conversation with them. But my hesitation and nervousness went away when members started to ask me several questions and conversation over them. The space became very friendly in a few days. I soon started seeing the invisible structure, the model which Sambandh works on is based on the strengths of individuals. This was unique to me. It helped me to realize my strengths, like working calmly and patiently. I connected well with everything, including the work culture and people who were there.
Mental health was a new field for me, but members made it easy for me to work. I used to listen to them and address their emotions, feelings, and respect for their experiences. I was able to relate to those feelings and emotions, as they were the same as mine. Another unique thing about Sambandh is that everyone is treated equally, I too embraced this culture and worked with members in everyday activities required to run this centre. Members were older than me in the center, so they guided me. I found a place where every person worked on sharing and caring. Each person had many paths to recovery (in the form of counseling or just sharing with staff or peers) to reach out to their problems and their solution.
I want to highlight here that the marginalization of a person living with mental illness is quite deep and multi-layered. Gender/sexual, poverty, and other forms of subjugations are easy to observe and address. But a person living with mental illness faces challenges from family to society. For instance, if the family is not sensitized, they find it difficult to understand their loved ones’ problems and challenges. They also suffer due to stigma from family to the community. Each marginalized community has its challenges, but mental health is still waiting for its peak time in India, where Indian society would consider mental health as a priority.
I have grown professionally, mentally, and emotionally in Sambandh. It gives opportunities to not only to members but also people like me to develop as a person. I got a chance to do my higher education, so I left Sambandh and earned M.Phil in 2019 from TISS, Mumbai. Sambandh believes in a relationship, works for relationships. And this brought me back to Sambandh in 2019. Sambandh has transformed me personally and professionally. I want to end this with these lines.
मैं तो एक अदना सा पत्थर था, तूने ही मुझे उठाया है,
सजना है मुझे कहां पर, तराश कर यह बताया है!!
Thank you so much Sambandh!