World Mental Health Day: survivors highlight positive stories

On Oct 10 afternoon, the inmates at the Banyan Shelter in San Thome were an excited lot. For they were going to attend their first public event – ‘Mad Pride Parade’ – organized by the Chennai based NGO Banyan along with a few other organizations on World Mental Health Day 2019.

Such marches have been held in many countries across the globe to show that people with mental illness are proud of their ‘mad’ identity.

Said Keerthana, a social worker at Banyan, “We intend to reclaim the rights of people will mental illness, abolish the stigma around their illness, strive for their social inclusion and increase the awareness regarding all this to the general public.”

Wearing T-shirts that represented their community, caregivers, trainers, mental health survivors and persons with mental illness of The Banyan Shelter were all set to participate at the first of its kind parade at Elliots Beach in Besant Nagar.

“We are very happy that a day is dedicated to celebrate our community. And an event of this kind has been organised,” says Nirmala Vedhaprakash, who was affected by bipolar disorder in her early teens. Improper treatment and abusive behaviour by her family members worsened her illness. After years of suffering, now, she works for advocacy and rights concerning the people of her kind.

From suffering severe depression, Dhanalakshmi has risen all the way up to become a vocational trainer at the shelter.”I’m one of the first Malala award winner in Chennai, ” she says with pride and flaunts the jewellery made by her.

Logesh Vethathiri has learned to keep his mental illness under control. “Whenever I feel my mental health is not good, I go to sleep so that no one else is affected,” says Logesh who works as assistant manager at an NGO.

Rathi, who had to come out of her abusive marriage despite her mental illness now counsels people to be strong and determined no matter what. She is also a trainer at The Banyan.”Cooking, making wire koodai and support from my family and neighbours helped me overcome the illness,” she says with a smile.

“All we need is some love, and support from society. And equal treatment at public and workplace,” said Logesh.

The group held placards and walked down the Loop Road near Domming Kuppam in San Thome to board a bus for Elliot’s Beach to take part in the parade.

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