Sometimes Just 'Sharing' Can Elevate Pain: Neerja Birla

BW Businessworld in association with BW Wellbeingworld hosted the maiden episode of Dialogue Podcast on the subject 'Mental Wellbeing: The Need Of The Hour'.

“The last one and a half year has seen an unprecedented focus in a sense to mental health, particularly because of the pandemic. So, if you look at the upside of it has actually helped bring focus on mental health and its concern because before that, something like mental health was not even spoken about. It was loosely taboo and stigmatized. It still is, but at least now people are realizing that this is a serious issue which has now obviously become worse because of the pandemic,” said Neerja Birla, Founder & Chairperson, Mpower in the opening episode of BW Wellbeingworld Dialogue Podcast.

Talking about the toughest last three weeks of the Corona age and people’s grief, anxiety and stress aroused due to the same, Neerja underlined, “Anxiety is, of course, a part and parcel of life. We see a lot of people with anxiety issues, disorders and generally feeling low. The anxiety has to do a lot with the uncertainty that is around and it is just a psychological sort of barrier that we have. It’s a feeling of being very stuck, not knowing when this is going to end and a lot of times, people are separated from their families and friends.” 

She further stressed, “Grief has become a very integral part of our life in the last couple of weeks. Every morning you wake up and you hear of somebody you know has passed away or somebody you may know very well – in their family someone passed away or is critical. Sometimes, it happens that people were trying to reach out and there was no hospital bed available or there was lack of Oxygen. Stories and incidents like this obviously have left all of us feeling a lot of grief. This is pretty much a part of our lives now but I am sure this will pass and once life again starts getting into some sort of normalcy, when the waves settle down, when health improves and when the lockdown starts lifting – that’s when we will find some sort of normalcy to our lives, some sort of a familiar routine and that is also going to help all of us to come out of this feeling of low and now knowing the situation we are in.” 

Elaborating about Mpower’s efforts and initiatives in helping people attain a healthy mind, Neerja said, “Mpower has been working in this space of mental health since about five years now. Apart from the counselling services that we do, we have been doing a lot of outreach programs but particularly with the onset of the pandemic, we started a helpline which was in conjunction and collaboration with BMC and the state govt. That’s been around a year old and we have seen around 75,000 callers. And it’s very enlightening to see that almost 73 per cent of the callers have been males and that trend continues till now (ranging between 60 to 70 per cent of the callers have been males). And that brings to focus again that mental health is pretty much prevailing among the males as well. 

Neerja further outlined, “Being a helpline it obviously helps them (callers) to be incognito which actually has helped them to come out and talk out about their issues, which otherwise they may find very difficult to talk about. Men are also facing a lot of stereotypical prejudices and behavioural patterns where men are not supposed to be so-called weak and having a mental health concern is unfortunately perceived as being weak. So typically, men find it very difficult to talk about it. But being on the helpline, since they have been incognito – it helped them to talk about a lot of their issues. Sometimes just sharing can elevate the pain or do away with pain and give you a solution or perspective."

“We also started E-Clinics where we are trying to reach out to tier 2 and tier cities with our online services so that it’s the same service that’s available to them as well,” Neerja added. 


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