In conversation with Aditi Joshi, Founder Speaking Grey

Aditi Joshi is a mental health advocate, social worker, and engineer. She is the founder of Speaking Grey, a non-profit organization for mental health and emotional well-being. The organization works on creating educational content, self-help resources and catalyze the conversations around Mental health by sharing personal recovery stories.

What is your take on the stigma associated with having Mental Illness in India where it is considered equivalent to being mentally unstable?

Talking about Mental Health has been highly stigmatized. Though now slowly things are improving & we are seeing more open and honest conversations around it. Society has idealized a lot of things and anything which doesn’t fit the category is often tagged as ‘unstable’.

The stigma can be both public & self-stigma as well. One may blame themselves too for living with a particular condition due to the dialogue and discrimination around us. There’s a lack of education and awareness which makes many believe that Mental Health conditions are rare and sometimes in one’s head because we don’t talk about this side of our life as freely as we do about the other things. In fact, according to WHO, 1 in 6 people live with a mental illness globally. A physical ailment doesn’t make anyone ‘unstable’ in the same way having a mental health condition shouldn’t be labeled as being mentally unstable.

What is your advice to parents on ‘How to initiate a conversation regarding Mental Health’?

  • Observe & Acknowledge– There are enough signs around us if we notice. Pause & don’t jump to a conclusion. Acknowledge the child’s feelings.
  • Sometimes it’s difficult for a child to approach their parents. One can begin with sharing a personal experience with their children. Helping them understand that their emotions & experience are valid.
  • When you share your own experience, you create a welcoming & safe environment thus empowering and motivating another person to take a step forward too.

How has been your experience as a Mental Health Advocate? What are the most common misconceptions surrounding mental health in India?

It’s been a great learning experience personally & professionally. I have got an immense amount of opportunities to connect with different people who are working for a similar cause & which only motivates me further to continue my journey. There are a couple of misconceptions. However, the most common ones are: being emotional, expressing vulnerability, or living with a mental health condition is perceived as a sign of weakness. Another one being, seeking professional help is required only when nothing else is working & thinking that therapy & medication is a never-ending loop.

What according to you is the biggest hurdle that people face while accessing professional help concerning Mental Health?

The first can be acknowledging that you may benefit from professional help. The second is confiding in someone who can share their personal experience or recommend a professional. Just like for other ailments we tend to stick to our family doctor or someone who we hear about from word of mouth, the same goes for finding a Psychologist, Counsellor, etc.

Which everyday activities can be therapeutic and adapted as a way of healthy living and focusing on mental well-being?

  • Have a routine. If you can try to prioritize your activities which eliminates the stress of not able to get to important things.
  • Acknowledge when you may need to take a break (Mental+ Physical)
  • Keep some time for the activities/hobbies which bring you comfort
  • Any form of physical activity/workout has proven to help with emotional & mental well-being as it helps to release Endorphins – one of the happy hormones
  • Yoga, Meditation, simple breathing techniques, and a digital detox regularly/occasionally are beneficial too.

In today’s world, the idea of Self-Care is gaining a lot of traction. How would you define ‘Self-Care’?

With Self-care comes self-awareness. One must be self-aware about how they are feeling, what is working for them, what is causing them distress, etc. Once we are comfortable in checking in with ourselves and understanding our emotions, we would be in a good place to practice self-care as well. Self-care can vary for people – it can be a weekend getaway all alone or even a catch-up with your loved ones. Whatever brings you comfort, do that!

Can you tell us how you’re providing a safe space for people battling Mental Health Issues through ‘Speaking Grey’? Is there any visible positive change that you have noticed?

Speaking Grey is an organization working towards creating Mental Health awareness and starting a dialogue around the same. Through our focus help groups, personal stories, and holistic solutions we aim to remove the barriers that are attached to seeking help We are also organizing free workshops & sessions by experts to promote any & all types of wellness activities which helps in anchoring a safe place for individuals & helps them. We are actively sharing individual’s personal stories which cover their journey & things that continue to help them. Since It’s always easier for us to relate to someone. There’s a long way to go in terms of what we aim to achieve – however, I have seen a lot more people engage with the content and approach us to give feedback or show their support. In June we ran our campaign around Pride Month & people showed immense support from all over the world where different individuals came forward and shared their stories. We got an overwhelming response from others who found inspiration, hope & education in these stories.

What role does a platform like Instagram play in creating awareness about a sensitive issue like Mental Health?

Instagram is one of the most used & celebrated social media platforms currently. Many use it on a daily basis as a source of entertainment, awareness, etc. People are also slowly becoming aware of the content they are consuming – they definitely wish to engage with content which also helps them in some way. Now that a lot more people are tuned in online – it can be a great place to create awareness around Mental Health and create a community that flourishes by supporting each other.

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