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BW Businessworld

‘Continue To Reach Out To Your Support Systems’

Neerja Birla, Founder & Chair per son of Mpower and a philanthropist , in a chat w ith BW Businessworld’s Editor-in-Chief ANNURAG BATRA, discusses at w hat point one should look for counselling and how to stay strong during this stressful pandemic times.

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Give us a sense of the impact you were able to make?

Mpower has been working in the space of mental health for about five years now. The last one and a half years have seen a focus on men-tal health particularly because of the pandemic. Before that, mental health was not something majorly spoken about. It was taboo. It still is, but people are realising that this is a serious issue that has now become obvious because of the pandemic.

We have been doing a lot of out-reach programmes. Particularly, with the onset of the pandemic, we started a helpline in conjunction and collaboration with BMC (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai ) and the state government.

We have had about 75,000 callers, and waht is really en-lightening is that about 78 per cent of the callers have been males. That trend continues till now. Speaking over a helpline ob-viously helps as it allows them to be in-cognito, which helps them to talk about issues.

What can people do to conquer anxiety and grief?
Anxiety is a part and parcel of life. We also see a lot of people with anxiety disorders generally having a feeling of low. Anxi-ety has a lot to do with the uncertainty that is around. It is a sort of psychological barrier that you have. Grief has been an integral part of our life. Every day you wake up and you hear somebody you know has passed away or someone from their has family passed away.

Stories like that obviously have left all of us feeling grief, and though this is very much a part of our life now, I am sure this will pass. When life will get to some sort of normalcy as the corona wave settles down, we will be able to come out of it.

Because of the unpreparedness of the government and other sys-tems coupled with the magnitude of the corona, the hope that the system or support circles will be able to look after you has been eroded. How does one deal with the erosion of faith in the usual support system that has been ex-isting for many years?
Of course, the system has been fail-ing or not living up to the expecta-tion given the magnitude of the pandemic, however, you should con-tinue to reach out to the support systems, be it your friends or your family.  At Mpower, we started a support group specifically for people suffering from grief after the loss of a dear one. When you have talked to a person who has a similar experience, the shared experi-ence itself makes you feel better and lighter.

How does one know that one needs counselling?
I believe we all fall on a spectrum. We all go through times and days when we feel low. There is a general feeling of, say, malaise. But, when you see a sort of pattern over a prolonged period of 2 - 3 weeks, you just don’t enjoy doing what you nor-mally do. If this is something that is happening consistently over a period of time, that is when you seek medical advice. Even if you were to make a call to a counsellor or a therapist, it is not that bad, she may just give you dos and don’ts and that alone may just help. That is exactly what the helpline does.

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magazine 20 May 2021 Neerja Birla