Koi baat nahi

— Praggapti Ghosh

 

The 21st-century world seems to find a solution for every problem, every situation, every event which puts you down, “koi baat nahi” or to say “it’s okay” the statements which seem to be used often no matter what the situation is.

This universal statement can be applied everywhere.  You share with your friend that you are having a very bad day, and just when you are about to share more, there comes a “koi baat nahi” slapping you right at your face, telling you to shut up, informing you that it does not matter, your emotions should be controlled by you yourself. You hear your colleague is sharing about a fight at her home, and you say “koi baat nahi” at the very precise moment she is about to lose it. This can go on and on in any situation you can think of.

The work of “koi baat nahi” here is to nullify the emotions as if the emotions do not exist. However, in reality, we can’t ignore the fact, all the emotions the positive ones like happiness and wonder and the negative ones like anger and disgust are normal and universal. There is nothing wrong with having them. There is nothing wrong in wanting to share them either. Sometimes all it needs to let go is one good ear to listen.

So, next time someone shares something with you, consciously remember that “baat hai” which means that “it matters” and try to replace the phrase with “I am listening to you” and “I am here for you”

And if it appears to you that you can’t be available fully to listen to someone accept it and let the person know there is nothing wrong in accepting your own emotions too, in the long run, it is much better than nullifying the emotions.

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EMPOWERING “CARER-SAATHIS”

— Mridula Seth

Ever since I started volunteering with a nongovernmental organization working with persons suffering from mental illnesses, my understanding of the sufferings and challenges faced by the carers has increased manifold. I feel surprised, a bit guilty also, that even though I was living in a joint family, I was not fully empathetic with my sister-in-law whose son was as old as my daughter and who was struggling with him to cope with his education and social behaviour. As an educationist, I did realize that he needed special attention and the boy should go for special education, but because of our relationship, she was not ready to accept my suggestions. Years later, she told me that she had been struggling with him taking him for counselling without telling anyone in the family!

Our relationship improved when we started living in nuclear families and she became open to receiving help as her son was growing up and the gap between him and my daughter was becoming obvious! I used to feel terrible hearing my sister-in-law scream at him and sometimes bang his head against the wall while teaching him. I felt helpless and miserable but then got used to it over a period. Tarun (name changed)  could not complete his schooling and often compared himself with my daughter with whom he had a close relationship. His mother did not want to have another child knowing that Tarun had inherited some traits from his father, my husband’s elder brother.

While Tarun’s social behaviour as a child was overlooked by the extended family, as an adult it was not acceptable. So much so that the family started avoiding his parents in social functions, isolating them.  This did not affect Tarun’s father as much as his mother who was very sensitive and critical of the attitude of the family members. However, she did not complain to them and continued to expand her social circle where she became an opinion leader and much sought after in religious group gatherings. She even initiated activities with some women going to the old home, helping children get admission in schools and becoming a popular figure in her locality. Moving away from the joint family helped her establish her own identity where her friends accepted Tarun and his behaviour.

Knowing that he suffered from mental illness, my husband’s friend employed Tarun in his factory. However, he was unable to work with colleagues taking advantage of the friendship between his uncle and his boss. His memory, especially of names, places and love for travel, were assets but somehow, he has not been able to know his boundaries and that becomes a cause of irritation for most of the people! He is an extrovert and does not hesitate to call and meet strangers. His addiction to using mobile has many people block his number as he repeatedly disturbs them. He loves to provoke individuals and is intelligent enough to know what to say that can cause a reaction. He can become verbally abusive and break relationships, but his childlike nature makes him forget all grievances and become friends again!

Tarun’s obsession for using or misusing Facebook and digital technology landed him into trouble when he posted comments about his neighbour’s daughter and the neighbour threatened to complain to the police. That is when the need for sending him to Daycare centre was realized. His experience with the first one was not good but ever since he joined Sambandh Health Foundation in Gurugram, there is marked a difference in his behaviour and self-confidence. He learnt to make wax candles and diyas from the Blind school and has been improving his quality of products in the past two years. His aggressive behaviour in promoting his products often puts off customers who do not understand his mental condition. Over the last three years, I have earned his confidence and respect. He is unable to handle money. He hands over sale money to me and I give him a cheque to deposit in his bank. I was touched when after Diwali sales, he touched my feet in gratitude!!

In the past three years, I have realized the importance of being a “Saathi” (friend) to my sister-in-law especially after she lost her husband.  Her fear of what happens after she is gone has been her major concern for a few years leading to forming a Trust where my daughter and I are trustees. She keeps preparing him for being independent and living with some relative as paying guest or in a home which she is desperately looking for!!

The need for support to carers is being increasingly felt by those who are sensitive to the challenges faced by carers in looking after the physical and emotional needs of their loved ones. This recognition was voiced during the training programme organized recently through the C4MH (Communication for Mental Health) campaign for field level functionaries of nongovernmental organizations. Purpose of the training was to build the capacity of grassroots workers to conduct campaigns for increasing awareness on mental health and breaking silence for open discussions on mental health issues that are hush-hushed or bottled inside!

I have witnessed how Tarun builds imaginary stories and tells them so convincingly that his mother believes him and forms her opinions against others. Sometimes she reacts aggressively blaming others for their behaviour and lack of sensitivity towards her son. In the rehab Daycare centre, he gets into arguments with the counsellors and is sometimes verbally abusive showing temper tantrums threatening to cut-off relationships and discontinue association with the NGO. He takes pride in reporting against the counsellors to the management and his mother. As a silent observer and mediator between my nephew, his mother and the NGO, I have gained valuable insights that have made me understand the need and role of a “Carer-Saathi“(CS) or friend and supporter of the carers.

  • In the process of empathizing with the person being cared, the carer tends to become vulnerable to mix facts with imaginary situations depicted by the person. This can lead to carer forming a negative attitude towards others interacting with the person. Carer-Saathi being relatively detached, can mediate effectively for removing misunderstandings.
  • Carers need skill-sets to cope with their own emotional problems which are increased manifold because of their carer roles. Carer-Saathis, if trained volunteers, can be assets to them.
  • Carers need space especially if they are looking after demanding family members. Sending them to Daycare facility provides space. However, if this option is not possible, home visits by CSs would be an ideal situation giving respite to the carers.
  • Training programmes can be designed especially for carers and carer-saathis keeping in mind the needs and challenges faced by them. While some components can be generic, sessions for special needs of persons suffering from mental illnesses can also be built into the programme.
  • Sharing experiences by carers and Saathis can be therapeutic and empowering improving the quality of life of the carers and their loved ones.

Participating in carer meetings on behalf of Tarun’s mother has made me explore the scope of identifying volunteers who can be potential friends or saathis of carers and empowering them with training and support.

 

My Sambandh with Sambandh Health Foundation

As the name suggests, Sambandh Health Foundation really maintains a good bond and relations with all its members and staff alike. This included us interns, as well, who were there for just five weeks. But we were always treated at par with the staff, with warmness and affection. The first thing that I noticed at Sambandh was that they don’t use words like clients, patients, or beneficiaries, but instead use the word “member” and not just in name, but also treat them as an equal part of the Sambandh family. From having lunches together to celebrating festivals and sharing fun and laughter, Sambandh has a close-knit bond between its members and staff. There are no power dynamics between service providers and beneficiaries here at Sambandh, which is very rare to see in organizations.

There are no “sir” or “ma’am” at Sambandh as they follow a flat structure. Every staff has clearly defined roles, but there is no hierarchy between them, which makes them very approachable. It was my first time working in a mental health organization, so it was an opportunity to apply in reality the theories that I had read in my classes so far. So naturally, I had a lot of questions. I feel that we interns were a curious bunch of students who were always coming up with questions, suggestions, dilemmas, etc. and the program officers were always there for us. Never once did they refuse to share their knowledge and experiences from the field, which was very valuable for us.

In terms of work, I was given the opportunity to organize sensitization meetings, a school workshop, a peer group meeting, conduct one to one awareness, interview members and their caregivers to write about the recovery journeys, perform a nukkad natak, work on social entitlements, observe awareness workshops, and FSHGs. I was given the agency to interact with members and help them independently and was always encouraged to come up with solutions on my own. Still, my village mobiliser and program officer were always there to support me whenever I was stuck. I was able to relate to many theories that we had read in our classes, like how social determinants affect the mental health of a person, and saw its practical examples when I interacted with members. At the same time, I also saw how not everything that we read in our classes could be applied in the field.

The whole experience made me grow both personally and professionally. Personally, this experience has made me much more confident, especially in public speaking, which I got to practice through multiple sensitization meetings and nukkad natak. Professionally, I learned the importance of building rapport, especially with the government officials and stakeholders, without which it’s challenging to work in any community. I also practiced the theories we studied in casework, group work, and clinical social work. Apart from work, I was able to build good rapport with the members and the Sambandh team alike. Overall, it was a brief but memorable journey for me at Sambandh, filled with fun, laughter, and lots of learning. I would definitely like to work at Sambandh again in the future, whenever there’s an opportunity.

Arpit Singh

Sambandh: Bonds and Learnings for a lifetime

27th September 2021 is still clearly etched on my mind. It was my first day at the Sambandh Health Foundation. What began as a fieldwork opportunity for me turned into one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. After two semesters of engaging in online fieldwork, I wished to go out and soak my hands in the field which is why I was exhilarated when I got accepted as a fieldwork trainee at Sambandh.

Conversations around mental health and mental illness are not encouraged in the society we live in. The associated stigma also has ramifications in terms of people not seeking treatment for their mental health concerns. This was also observed in the village that I was assigned to work in. The stigma is ingrained so deep into the psyche of individuals that some members found it extremely difficult to overcome it. Mental illness has also been explained as a figment of imagination by many people in the community. The experiences of persons living with mental illness have been constantly invalidated by saying things like it is just as an excuse to not work and laze around in the house.

Sambandh focuses a lot on enhancing mental health literacy in the community. Through awareness, sensitization and one-to-one contact with community members, I not only disseminated information about mental health and mental illness but also had conversations around why the mental health stigma persists in the community. While it was a scary experience to talk in front of community members in the beginning, it is something I started to enjoy and look forward to as time passed. The work-related to information dissemination was a highlight for me because it provided me with the chance to talk to community members.

I worked with a group of Phoenix’s, people who have risen from the ashes and have been trying to rebuild their life. Through the recovery and strength-oriented approach adopted by Sambandh, the focus is placed on the goals, aptitude and aspirations and harness these aspects to ensure recovery of an individual. Recovery among persons living with mental illness is usually perceived to be unattainable. While I was working on the recovery stories for a member and caregiver, the role of the family as a key resource in the recovery process was highlighted. I also observed how an individual is embedded between different systems that operate on different levels and the impact it can have on their mental health, for example, I had the opportunity to meet a member who had talked about the influence of different systems such as patriarchy, gender roles, employment, education, matrimony, etc on mental health.

Sambandh’s framework has highlighted the importance of groups in recovery. Throughout my tenure with the organization, I was part of various group endeavors such as Family Self-Help Groups and Peer Group Meetings. While this space did not only provide the members with the space to express their emotional experiences, but also a safe space where the strengths of members could be used to help others too. The Family Self Help is a wonderful example of this where participants used to share coping strategies they used when they experienced something stressful and how it helped them.

What stood out for me was the person-first approach that was followed throughout the organization. Whether it was staff members in the organization or service users, but everyone was called and considered a “member”. The member is placed at the centre and the focus is on what they are capable of doing and what they want to do, rather than the mental illness they are living with. For instance, the Community Integration Centre is a space where members were encouraged to simply work on their skills and improve upon them by engaging in a range of activities like cooking food for everyone, filing data, etc.

The fieldwork experience most importantly made me understand the importance of resources that are present in the community and how they can aid in mental health care. My most cherished experiences were shared with my Program Officer, Neeraj Ji and my community mobilizer Lata Ji when we used to walk through the village of Jharsa for hours to work on the asset map, talk to various community members, eat simmering cups of chai and share our insights regarding work that can be done to ameliorate the situation.

The last month has made me aware of my various strengths, areas of improvement and has also oriented me to how a workplace operates which would help me in my professional life. Sambandh through its unique framework is attempting to bring change within the realm of mental health and I consider myself lucky that I was able to contribute and learn from the work in a small way. 

Indrani Sinha

SAMBANDH – “AN EXPERIENCE FOR LIFETIME TO REMEMBER, BECAUSE IT WAS WORTH IT”.

As an intern, my experience at Sambandh has been stupendous. It was my first offline internship as a social work student; hence, I was eager to work and learn. On the first day, when I got acquainted with the Sambandh’s work, it’s projects, objectives and work-model, I was zealous to get into the field and experience it all. Working under village community mental health project, I could envisage about my abilities to exert effort through my strengths and prior experience. Initially, when I was placed at Basai village, I got excited to work there, but as I explored more about Basai, I was muddled with the area and localities within. But I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the programme officer and mobilizers who helped me to gain an understanding about the village area, community people and the members. Each week presented challenges which I took as an opportunity to step out of my safe place. Before working at Sambandh, I never addressed or spoke in front of community members, hence collecting people, drawing their attention and talking to them gave me courage and increased my confidence. I discovered that as a budding mental health professional, I have learnt how to maintain a controlled emotional involvement, I interacted with 15-18 members and had built a good rapport with them but I always kept in my mind how to terminate the relationship in a positive manner with no promises.

The structure of the field work/internship was planned systematically with significant emphasis on teaching about the role of social worker in community setting, which involved interaction with members, home-visits, networking with community resources/assets, promotion of mental health and educating community through awareness/sensitization workshops, along with conducting research about the assets through community asset mapping as well as visit to civil hospital to gain an insight about District Mental Health Program and treatment aspect.

The highlight of the fieldwork was, the supportive staff members and flexible office environment to learn and initiate discussions regarding mental health and raise concerns about the challenges. Every-day after coming from the village and sharing lunch together was a wholesome experience. Village visits with mobilizers (Anup and Laxmi) was a great learning experience at a professional as well as on the personal level. Whenever, I conducted a workshop successfully or completed some tasks, the satisfaction feeling was equal to the tagline of McDonald “I’m Lovin’ It”.

As a social work student, I have always heard that if you don’t get your hands dirty into the field, you are probably missing out something from your learning. My visits to Basai were sometimes challenging, as roaming around the village area with sun on top of your head and if it rained then, then the streets would get filled with dirty water, so walking there was a different experience. Once, that dirty water fell on me, as the car went faster. But as it says” Daag ache hai”, I felt that because I had to complete the community asset mapping on the same day, so all these hurdles did not bother me and I successfully completed my asset mapping.

At Basai, people were quite welcoming and greeted us with respect during home-visits. Furthermore, I could see the difference in urban and semi-urban setting of stigma related to mental illness. Village people do not understand about mental illness but I talked to few people so I notice that they were not aware but they were acceptive and ready to learn about it.

The bottom-up/ grassroot level approach employed by Sambandh has assisted them in connecting with the community members and working with them. I have learnt about the application of various methods of social work in the village community mental health project i.e., case work and group work during peer group meeting, family self help group meeting, home-visits etc. The framework of strength-based approach guided me to plan interventions and provide resources for the members and consequently helping them to engage in community-based recovery. I was sceptical about how to execute the task of community asset mapping, but as the tagline of Samsung says “Do what you can’t”, I kept going forward and made it clear that either work hard or do smart work, but don’t leave it or give up. I was able to complete it on time and got appreciated for my work.  To conclude, I would like to mention that “Sambandh has made me acquainted with my strengths which I never realised such as performing a Nukkad natak with bold voice, conducting sessions and planning out events. I sincerely appreciate the Sambandh team in providing me the opportunity to work under their guidance.

Sonal Joshi

A connection for lifetime

My journey at Sambandh Health Foundation has been an experience full of learnings, building connections and having fun all through the way. I found the work culture extremely welcoming and warm. I did not feel like a new comer, but got involved in everyday functioning very smoothly. Everyone takes their work seriously, with a natural smile. It is an organization that wanted me to give extra, without even being asked for. It really works on the principle that the name suggests- Sambandh (connections and bond).

This internship has helped me grow both personally and professionally. Personally, I felt heard. My ideas and work were valued and it inspired me thoroughly. I could interact with anyone and everyone in the organization, irrespective of the hierarchy and learn from their life experiences. It is an open, comfortable, welcoming and inspirational space. Professionally, I could enhance my micro-skills of counseling through interaction with members. I learnt more creative and interactive ways for rapport building, trust building and active listening. It also helped me unravel my biases about people living with some kind of disabilities, and work upon them. It made me aware that people living with mental illness can have problems that are not associated with their illness at all. Their illness does not define them, even if they seem surrounded by it. This is one learning I am going to take away from this internship for my life. I learnt to look at life, people and problems from a new perspective, and I shall continue to keep finding newer ones in all my future interactions too.

The kind of works assigned to me were both practical and theoretical. I learnt about the Mental Health Act, 2017 and various clauses about entitlements, including certificates for disability. Knowledge about the frameworks that my further practice shall be guided by, gave me a head-start for my career ahead. Another major learning has been the creativity of content. I conducted sessions with same objective, for different groups of people, in extremely different ways. This gave me a clear understanding of it’s not just what I say, but how I say it that matters. It certainly makes me feel more in sync with the content that I want to deliver.

The experience of Internship was full of laughter, hope, joy, fun, learnings, patience, understanding and perseverance. It is a place where you surely want to be. I’d like to express my gratitude towards everyone who showed support and trust towards me, throughout my internship journey.

Shambhavi Agrawal

The Sambandh Beyond Sambandh

I believe my journey at Sambandh Health Foundation began right when I first applied to it through the Placement Cell of my University. Few days later, one afternoon I got a call from an unknown number which I could not take at that moment, later when I called back to the number, the number was unavailable, and this thing kept on happening for a while, until we finally get to have a call. I never thought that it would be an interview call, so as unprepared I was, I just tried to answer everything that the Head of Programmes asked me and then after the entire call I asked her a question about my role in Sambandh as an intern and what am I expected to do, and that is when she told me “You be you, and do whatever you usually do”, and that statement really captured me. That was the moment when I finally realized that I am really not inclined towards any other internship but this. This internship has different spark, some different vibe that keeps on attracting me towards it. That’s where I felt I have some kind of sambandh with sambandh.

After the call, which went smooth and quite great, I was expecting that I might get this internship, but when few days later the results of Sambandh Internship were released, I was kind of disheartened to not see my name in the list of selected interns. I felt terrible as I really wanted to get this internship, not because for the sake of the getting an internship but also because I specifically wanted to get an internship with Sambandh, thus, to accomplish that, I again reached to the Head of Programmes, requesting her to re-consider my application as I am really looking forward to work with Sambandh, to which she responded she’ll consult with her team and get back. The next thing I know was that I finally got an internship at Sambandh. I made sure that as soon as my internship begins, I put in my level best and express the passion and the strong desire that I first had to get into Sambandh.

With the gradual progression of the CIC sessions, and my interaction with all the members made me feel as if there is some connection that cannot be expressed with the usage of mere words, and it is beyond the capacity of the words. 

Sambandh has given me this exposure and opportunity to become a part of this huge and beautiful family that firmly believes together we can and we will. It has helped me develop a sambandh not only with the members of the CIC, but with also myself as time and again it encouraged me to reflect upon myself, not just on the inside, but also on the outside. All the memories- good or bad, all the experiences- happy or sad were unique in their own ways and taught me different kinds of lessons. These memories and experiences allowed me to make and know a better version of me; to work upon my rapport building, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and communication skills; to develop the right amount of empathy and sensitivity and to hold everyone together with utmost affection and care.

Journey towards Transformation

For my summer block internship, I accepted a position with Sambandh Health foundation as an intern. My internship was one month long, and I had the pleasure to work from May 10th to June 10th, 2021, which made it all the more fun working right in the middle of lockdown.

I have been studying Psychology for the past 5 years but now when I look back, I realize that my association with psychology goes beyond those years. I have been intrigued to explore this field since my school days. Knowing more about the human mind and behaviour, the conscious and unconscious as well as the feeling and thoughts always interested me. In the past 5 years I have had the privilege of experiencing many internships, from working in a psychiatric ward in hospitals to a school counsellor, I have been in many hats so far but this was my first experience in so many years to be a part of a community welfare organisation which follows a very unique model to approach there member for their holistic wellbeing.

Flush of emotions

I remember the first call I had with Smiti on one fine morning and how she explained the various aspects of Sambandh, what it stands for as well as how the work would be. I felt an instant connection and was intrigued to know more about it as Sambandh follows a very unique and different recovery model for their members. In the phone call she explained about the person centred approach that they take with their members and that they are their centre of attention. I, as a trainee counselling psychologist instantly felt connected as I also follow a Humanistic approach. I still remember the morning on 10th May around 9:30, when I get a call from my colleague and picking it up while being half asleep, she goes “Hey Tanjilla, where are you? Are you not joining?, The instant thought that came to my mind was “Hell! I screwed the best opportunity on the very first day where I feel so much love and acceptance from each member that are associated with the organisation.

Throughout my time at Sambandh, I have had the pleasure of making interview questions for World Schizophrenia Day and working closely with their social media team. I remember that while I was making the questions and I felt stuck, my supervisor told  me that “Tanjilla, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoe and what you would have wanted them to know” this made me come out of my bubble of thoughts and made things clearer for me and helped me to proceed further. When I was assigned to the social media team, I believe I grew as a person a lot and this broke my inhibitions. Since then I observed a change within myself where I could approach any member and also feel welcomed by them. I felt accepted and understood from their end and this helped me grow. This area of work was something which I have never explored, and I had an amazing experience, from introducing myself with the poster making to the struggle that I had to face in my initial days with Canva as I was a newbie with that application to a time where I was able to produce a poster in just 4 minutes. This is how enriching journey has been for me and the learning helped me a lot.

On the breaking news side, I was also asked to observe the CIC sessions where I was able to see the happy faces and their smile every morning where they look forward to and are hopeful for each session. A day that really stunned me and made me realise the love I have for my job was when one of the member was sharing her new purchase to the other members and the happiness she was exhibiting as well as the way everyone accepted her happiness made her feel special, this is why I love what I am doing. This made me realise that we should be happy with the small things, live in the moment and enjoy it. I also witnessed Family Self Help Group where all the caregivers of the members come together and share their thoughts which gives them a blanket of support to one another.

Though the internship has centred around social media and interaction with members, I have also gained experience holding and speaking at awareness workshops where initially I was very nervous but holding it online and not be able to present in the physical setup was indeed challenging but this also taught me many things in many ways.

Since we were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many things I was not able to do. Usually, as psychology interns, we get to interact with members, be in sessions as well as be with their clients, hold awareness programs and workshops with people in a physical setup as well as with the members of the CIC. This internship has helped me prepare for work life, where I will be pursuing my career in Counselling psychology. This experience has really opened my eyes that my passion is to work with people and try to understand them through simple conversations

Tanjilla Bahar Islam

Metamorphosis- A journey towards discovering myself

My experience at Sambandh is what I would consider as a process of metamorphosis. What just began as an internship opportunity ended up being one of the most cherished experiences of my life and an important learning lesson. As a first year undergraduate, I was very nervous about my first internship experience. I was skeptical as to whether I would be enough to work in a mental health organisation. But I was received with great warmth and compassion that I never felt out of place even once. And now, after being a part of Sambandh Health Foundation for a small, yet significant amount of time, I consider myself blessed to have been chosen by Sambandh as an intern.

As an advocate for mental health, I was always concerned about the stigma and the taboo associated with mental health in India. I feared that our society’s archaic views about mental health would prevent many people from accepting their mental health condition and work towards their recovery. But Sambandh Health Foundation, with its person-centered recovery model and multifaceted approach, is de-stigmatizing mental health, not just at the urban level, but also in the rural areas where the awareness is shockingly low. Sambandh Health Foundation acts as a pillar of support and teaches people that no matter how serious your mental condition is and no matter how many years of life you have given up exhausted by your condition, you can and you will recover and take charge of your life in a functional and purposeful manner. Mental illness is a very serious issue that affects the person, caregiver and everyone in the vicinity of the person with mental illness. Therefore, the recovery journey is not just of the person with mental illness, rather it is the collective journey of everyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues. Through the community integration centre and the self-help groups, Sambandh Health Foundation is trying to make a difference in the lives of everyone affected by mental health.

As an intern, I have had several interactions with the members and their caregivers. The wellness sessions, peer-group meetings and sessions with the mobilisers and program officers taught me a lot about how the community plays a pivotal role in the recovery of a person with mental illness. The interactions helped me evolve as a person. While conducting the mental health awareness session for school students from the urban villages, I learned the importance of building a rapport for people to trust you and accept you. In the peer group meetings, I witnessed how mental illness has shattered the lives of their members and I was quite amused by their diligent efforts to join the broken pieces of their life and have a sense of meaning and purpose. The family self-help group meetings taught me that with care and patience, recovery is possible. Through the self-help groups, the caregivers and the family members developed a sense of belongingness and togetherness. In their similar journeys towards recovery, they have found in each other a bond that gives them strength. By seeing that others are going through a similar problem, the caregivers have a relief that they are not alone.

During my short time at Sambandh Health Foundation, my biggest learning experience came from the team. The mobilisers and the program officers treated me like one of them and have always been to help me out whenever I needed them. When I interacted with the members for their recovery stories, the members have often told me that there were times when their families gave up on them but the team of Sambandh never doubted them and always motivated them to work towards their goals and aspirations. Caregivers have also told me that seeing your loved one suffering from mental illness and seeing them withdraw from life is very painful, but they have found their strength in the mobilisers who are always ready to help and listen to their problems.

Sambandh Health Foundation, to me, was the window that opened doors towards the possibility of recovery and the importance of community in helping people with mental illness. With its unique framework and compassionate team, they are doing wonders in the field of mental health.

Lockdown Breakdown

When the lockdown was declared last year in March, I was initially delighted. Less traffic, more time to spend chilling at home and even my job was shifted from the office into my bedroom! It seemed like a good life. But as the days stretched into months, I became increasingly restless and dissatisfied. The lockdown severely restricted my ability to go out and visit places around the city for amusement as well as for some work. And even the people I met everywhere on a day-to-day basis also maintained their distance from me (and from everyone else because of social distancing).

I grew unhappy with how little contact I now had with the outside world, and my unhappiness gradually morphed into a depression. However, I reminded myself that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I could use the unusual opportunity which had been provided by the global situation to work on improving myself and thinking hard about my life. I was happy when I succeeded in my endeavour to use my time productively, at least in part. I completed an online course on a subject related to my job, and even began to write a book!

But these were temporary victories, and I soon lost my motivation and began to sink into depression yet again. This time, the affliction was more severe and took me a long time to come out of it. But I did. What finally shook me up and brought me to Earth was the thought that I would be old very soon and then all I would have to look back with regret would be wasted time and a wasted life. So, bit by bit, I pulled myself out of the depression and began to focus my energies on useful things again. I enrolled for a course at Open University, and also began to learn a new language in order to make myself more skilled and capable.

I’m still working on these newest initiatives, and concurrently, fighting the temptation to abandon work and sink back into the gloom. It takes a tremendous effort for me every day and I’m not always successful. But I intend to keep trying. As someone once said, “you can get busy living or get busy dying”. I know which one is my choice.

–          Siddharth

मैं और संबंध: रिश्तों का संगम

तीन साल पहले जब मैं संबंध हेल्थ फ़ाउंडेशन से जुड़ा था तब मैंने यह कभी नहीं सोचा था कि संबंध के साथ मेरा इतना गहरा संबंध हो जाएगा और यह मेरा एक परिवार बन जाएगा। संबंध में आने से पहले मैंने कई संस्थाओं में काम किया था  और निश्चित रूप से उसके अनुभव भी रहे हैं, मैंने वहाँ बहुत कुछ सीखा भी है। परंतु संबंध में आने के बाद मेरे अंदर जो बदलाव हुआ वो पहले कभी नहीं हुआ था। यहां मेरी सोच को एक नई दिशा मिली है, प्रेरणा मिली है, मैं स्वयं को समझने लगा हूँ, अपनी क्षमताओं को पहचानने लगा हूं और अपने आप को जानने लगा हूँ।

संबंध ने मुझे बिना किसी भेदभाव के, मैं जैसा हूँ, मुझे वैसे ही स्वीकार किया। यहाँ मेरी कमियों पर नहीं बल्कि मेरी क्षमताओं पर विश्वास किया गया। मुझे वहीं सम्मान मिला जिसकी चाहना मैं रखता था। मुझे शारीरिक और मानसिक भिन्नताओं के आधार पर नहीं बल्कि मानवीय मूल्यों के आधार पर परखा  गया और मेरे व्यक्तित्व को देखा गया | मेरी इच्छाओं, विचारों, भावनाओं, और क्षमताओं को प्राथमिकता दी गई।  एक इंसान के तौर पर मुझे वही सम्मान और प्यार मिला जो हर किसी की चाह होती है और शायद मेरी भी यही चाह थी।

सम्बन्ध हेल्थ फ़ाउंडेशन में हर किसी को अपनी इच्छाओं और भावनाओं की अभिव्यक्ति के लिए पर्याप्त अवसर मिलता है, चाहे वह कोई सदस्य हो या कर्मचारी | मुझे भी यहाँ सामुदायिक मानसिक स्वास्थ्य कार्यक्रम के अंतर्गत काम करने का मौका मिला जहाँ सबके साथ खुल कर बात करने और अपना अनुभव, व अपने विचार व्यक्त करने के लिए उचित वातावरण तो मिला ही साथ ही, समुदाय में वास्तविक समूह के साथ जुड़ कर उनके पक्ष को जानने और उनके अनुभवों को साझा करने का अवसर भी प्राप्त हुआ |

यहाँ हम सभी एक टीम के रूप में काम करते हैं, एक दूसरे का सहयोग करते हुए उनकी भावनाओं और विचारों का सम्मान भी करते हैं | हम किसी भी व्यक्तिगत अथवा व्यावसायिक समस्या के लिए आपस में बैठ कर चर्चा करते हैं, अपने विचार व्यक्त करते हैं और उसका समाधान भी निकालते हैं | यहाँ आने के बाद मेरा आत्मविश्वास इतना प्रबल हो गया है कि मैं अपने आसपास अन्य सदस्यों के प्रति भी सकारात्मकता से परिपूर्ण विश्वास रखने लगा हूँ।  मैं अपने अनुभव के आधार पर दूसरों के अनुभव को समझने लगा हूँ, उन्हें सम्मान देने लगा हूँ। मैं अपने आसपास ऐसा वातावरण बना पा रहा हूँ जिससे अन्य व्यक्तियों का विश्वास जीत सकूँ | मैं अब पूरी तरह से आश्वस्त और आशान्वित हूँ कि मेरे अंदर का यह परिवर्तन मुझे दूसरे व्यक्तियों के साथ संबंधों को मज़बूत करने में मदद कर सकता है, जिससे मैं उनकी भावनाओं को उनके नज़रिये से देख सकूँ, समझ सकूँ और उनकी सहायता कर सकूँ |  

लोगों से जुड़ना, उनसे अच्छे सम्बन्ध बनाना, मानवीय मूल्यों के आधार पर, बिना किसी भेदभाव के उनकी समस्या को समझना और उस परेशानी से बाहर आने में उनकी मदद करना, यही मेरे जीवन का उद्देश्य भी हैं। मुझे ऐसा लगता है कि मैं काफी हद तक सामुदायिक मानसिक स्वास्थ्य कार्यक्रम के माध्यम से विभिन्न प्रकार के कार्य विधियों को करते हुए लोगों के जीवन में बदलाव लाने में सफल हो पा रहा हूँ | मैं अपने को बहुत सौभाग्यशाली मानता हूँ  कि मुझे संबंध हेल्थ फ़ाउंडेशन जैसी संस्था में काम करने का अवसर मिला है ।  यही से सही मायने में मेरे सुखी और संतुष्ट जीवन की शुरुआत हुई हैं।  

धन्यवाद!

____________

नीरज कुमार पाण्डेय

मेरा सफर: मानसिक स्वास्थ्य और मेरी समझ

दूसरा भाग:

एक दिन सम्बन्ध की कार्यकर्त्ता दीपशिखा मेरे गाँव में आयी और उसने मुझे सम्बन्ध के साथ काम करने का प्रस्ताव दिया। मैं कुछ व्यक्त नहीं कर पायी। मैंने उनसे कहा कि मैं घर में बात करके बताती हूँ। परन्तु इस प्रस्ताव ने मेरी आँखों में वो सभी सपने वापस लाकर भर दिए जो शादी के बाद मेरी आँखों से ओझल हो गए थे और मैं सिर्फ चूल्हे व बच्चो तक ही सिमित हो गयी थी। परन्तु भगवान के उपकार से मेरे परिवार का सकारात्मक जवाब आया। 

मेरे पास कोई प्रोफेशनल उपाधि या प्रशिक्षण नहीं था। किन्तु सम्बन्ध ने मुझे सामुदायिक समाकलन केंद्र (कम्युनिटी इंटीग्रेशन सेंटर) में एक महीने तक प्रशिक्षण दिया। प्रारम्भ में मुझे घबराहट होती थी कि कैसे काम कर पाऊँगी कई बार उन मानसिक पीड़ितों को देखकर डर भी लगता था जिनके लक्षण हिंसात्मक होते थे। और दूर से अवलोकन करती थी कि कार्यकर्त्ता उन्हें किस प्रकार संभाल रहे है।  सम्बन्ध की पूरी टीम मुझे हौसला देती थी और बताती थी कि शुरू में थोड़ा डर लगेगा मगर जब आप उनको समझना शुरू कर दोगी तो आपके लिए भी काफी आसान हो जायेगा। कार्यकर्त्ता मुझे आश्वस्त करते थे कि आप कर पाओगे, जिससे मुझे हिम्मत मिलती थी। मैंने सदस्यों (मानसिक पीड़ितों) के साथ रसोई, नुक्कड़ नाटक, प्रशाशनिक कार्यो में सहभगिता करना शुरू किया जिससे मुझे समझ में आया कि ये लोग भी हमारे जैसे ही है सिर्फ बीमारी की वजह से व्यवहार और हावभाव में बदलाव आ गया है।  मैंने मानसिक बीमारी के बारे में उपलब्ध कुछ हिंदी किताबे भी पढ़ी जिनसे मेरी और अधिक समझ बढ़ी।

प्रशिक्षण के बाद मुझे मेरे ही गाँव में काम करने का अवसर मिला। मैं एक दम से चुप रहने वाली लड़की थी परन्तु प्रशिक्षण के बाद मैंने थोड़ा बोलना शुरू कर दिया था। शुरू में, जब मैं गाँव में काम करती थी तो मुझे थोड़ी हिचकिचाहट होती थी कि पुरुषो से कैसे बात करू क्योकि अब से पहले मैंने कभी ससुराल के गावँ में किसी बाहर के पुरुषो से बात नहीं की थी।  मैंने धीरे धीरे लोगो से बात करना शुरू किया और अपने बारे में बताया । लोगो ने मेरे काम की सराहना की।  इससे मुझे गौरान्वित महसूस हुवा।

अब मैं ग्रामीणों को मानसिक बीमारी के प्रति जागरूक करती हूँ व उनको कार्यशाला था जागरूकता कार्यक्रमों में भाग लेने के लिए उत्साहित करती हूँ, व कभी कभी कार्यशाला संचालित भी करती हूँ। मैं अपने गाँव व आसपास में रह रहे मानसिक पीड़ित व्यक्तियों के साथ मिलकर अलग अलग तरह की गतिविधिया करती हूँ जो  उनकी रिकवरी में सहायक होती हैं। सदस्य साथी बैठक करते हैं जहां वे एक दूसरे से  मिलते जुलते व आपसी विचार साझा करते हैं। हम ग्रामीण क्षेत्र में परिवारों के साथ बैठक करते हैं ताकि वे भी बीमारी के बारे में जानकरी ले सके व अपने घनिष्टो के साथ कैसे काम करना हैं जान सके। मैं इस बैठक में प्रतिभागिता के लिए परिवारों को उत्साहित करती हूँ व समझाती हूँ कि ये उनके लिए कितना जरूरी हैं। मैं ये सब कार्य करते समय आनंदित व गौरान्वित महसूस करती हूँ कि मुझे सम्बन्ध का हिस्सा बनने का अवसर प्राप्त हुआ।

मेरे जो सपने, हौसला और आत्मविश्वास शादी के बाद कही खो गया था, समबन्ध ने उनको फिर से जगाने में मेरी मदद की है। समबन्ध ने मानसिक बीमारियों पर मेरी समझ ही विकसित नहीं की बल्कि मुझे विश्वास दिलाया कि मैं भी इस क्षेत्र में योगदान दे सकती हूँ।  आज मैं आर्थिक रूप से ही नहीं बल्कि मानसिक रूप से भी स्वयं को सशक्त महसूस करती हूँ। मेरे पास आज जो खुशियाँ है मैं उनके लिए सम्बन्ध की आभारी हूँ। और अंत में बस यही कहना चाहती हूँ कि ये सीखने का मेरा सफर अभी रुका नहीं है बल्कि जारी हैं और जहां पर भी मुझे स्वयं में कमी महसूस हो रही है मैं भविष्य में उन सब पर काम करना चाहती हूँ।  

धन्यवाद सम्बन्ध !!

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