World Mental Health Day – writings at the intersection of personal and professional

The photograph shows a desktop on which there is an illustration taking up the full, entire screen, and at the bottom of the illustration is written The Good Story Project. The illustration shows a hand holding an old style telephone handset, a cat, an alarm clock, books, notes or a to-do list hanging above the desk, a house plant, a hand writing down things. On the desk are magazines, a writing diary, colouring pencils arranged in a half circular shape, books arranged in a pike to resemble a small X-mas tree, a photograph of my parents, an old tin box depicting a European street view, an owl made of clay on the top of it
My desk, at Christmas last year. I spend some happy hours at this desk.

Some of you who follow this personal blog, are also aware of, and follow another blog that I co-host with a friend and an ex colleague. Most of my writing on The Banyan tree and other stories is a mix of musings on life, and documentation of life as I experience it; or at least some parts of it. The other blog The Good Story Project is different in a way that it is about other people, and their experiences, perspectives and stories. There, I used my journalistic skills to draw out their narratives and stories.

And while The Good Story Project features interviews, feature-length articles, opinion pieces (from guest writers), first person accounts from people who have lived experiences to share, it is true that a lot of the ideas and/or what I choose to pursue on that platform comes from a personal space.

When I say personal, it is not necessarily something that I have experience of, or is my lived experience, but in the sense that I have had some exposure to the topic or issue on hand, and believe that it important to have conversations or pursue stories on these topics. The emphasis is on conversations and stories that are done with honesty of intent and application, with empathy and balance. In this way, the content on The Good Story Project sits at the interception of personal and professional.

The mental health series that we did on the platform was one such attempt. I was anguished by the manner, tone and absolutely malicious intent in which the Indian electronic media was having a conversation on actor Sushant Singh’s death as also the fact that his possible mental health diagnosis was discussed with such disbelief and misinformation.

I was also affected by the impact it was having on people that I knew personally. Friends, who were decent individuals, but were carried away by watching shows on television (some of my friends were in particular, following Republic TV) and saying things that were out of character – things against the deceased actor’s girlfriend, about the alleged use of black magic and so on and so forth. It was as if we were stripping ourselves of our basic human decency and getting caught up in a web of insinuations and half-truths.

Some of my friends were consuming this lethal dose of television reporting (for me, such kind of reporting is an unholy mix of lies and manipulation) and as a result of which, saying or believing the terrible things that were being said about the girlfriend, without giving her the benefit of doubt, or waiting for the investigation to begin or end. Even taking away from her and many others, the opportunity to grieve a loved one’s untimely death.

My point was simple. I am not here to judge or am even equipped to judge or investigate what had happened; and I would leave that to the police and the investigating agencies. But surely we all have the capacity to have a conversation on mental health and illness, and on the complexity of relationships without falling back on cliches, misinformation and pure character assassination of a person?

This series stemmed from that simple desire to have sane, non-judgemental and authentic conversations on mental health. I am no match or antidote against the powers and reach of a huge industry or venomous, morally corrupt TV anchors. Neither do I claim to be, in any sense of the term, a mental health professional. But I was happy that I, and my friend were able to do our bit. And when I got responses from a few readers who felt that these interviews spoke to them, resonated with them, I felt that my purpose in doing these was served.

One particular feedback that I received from a reader (on Jerry Pinto’s interview) will always stay with me. She wrote: ““I always thought no one can ever understand me because my situation and my life experiences have been extraordinarily different. Not all in a good, extraordinarily different way though. But after reading Jerry Pinto’s interview here, I think he will definitely understand me. His words moved me to a place of quiet acceptance of all that I felt and experienced in life. Thank you for sharing this. I feel a wonderful sense of kinship with the author. Kindred souls of the same world. His words are so gentle and kind.”

Presenting some of these interviews, and first-person accounts here:

Media training is very important but far more important is the notion of ethical media.

Jerry Pinto

http://thegoodstoryproject.com/2020/11/01/as-a-child-i-longed-for-a-normal-mother-i-did-not-know-what-a-normal-mother-was/

I wanted something which spoke to me about the everyday grime of living and caregiving, so vastly different from the beauty of painting and poetry of the world of ‘coveted’ madness. 

Amandeep Sandhu

http://thegoodstoryproject.com/2020/11/04/growing-up-i-was-called-pagal-ka-bachcha-child-of-a-mad-woman/

During Babi’s time, there was a certain lack of empathy in the way how the press reported on her. Calling her ‘mad’, ‘cracked up’ and such.

Karishma Upadhyay

http://thegoodstoryproject.com/2020/11/18/punctual-extremely-courteous-with-a-photographic-memory-babi-was-all-this-and-more/

I work in the cross-disability field, advocacy is my area of work. Unfortunately, even my colleagues from this sector do not understand my kind of disability.

Shampa Sengupta

http://thegoodstoryproject.com/2020/11/26/do-i-look-like-a-person-with-mental-illness-in-this-photo/

I am sharing the interviews I conducted, but there are more. The link to all of them is in this piece here. If you haven’t read these interviews, and first-person accounts, but would like to. or think that these might be useful for someone you know – please share. And as always, thank you for reading, and for the support that I receive on this blog here.

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