- Actor Deepika Padukone has battled depression in 2014
- I have to nurture my mind, my body and my spirit every day: Ms Padukone
- The role of caregiver is extremely crucial: Ms Padukone on mental illness
New Delhi: Actor Deepika Padukone, who has battled depression, is an active advocate of mental health and runs a foundation ‘Live Love Laugh’. Founded in 2015, the organisation aims to give hope to every person experiencing stress, anxiety and depression. On Sunday (October 9), ahead of World Mental Health Day, Ms Padukone was in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvallur district, around 40kms from the capital city of Chennai, to expand the Live Love Laugh’s rural community mental health program. During her visit, the actor exclusively interacted with NDTV and talked about battling depression, the role of caregivers in dealing with mental illnesses and making mental health accessible for all.
Talking about the role of the family in fighting mental illness, Ms Padukone said,
It is extremely crucial. Even in my personal journey, the role of the caregiver has been extremely important, that is why mother is here with us today, and that is why my sister has been so passionately a part of the cause for many years. Therefore, when I hear the stories of caregivers I understand how equally important that is as well. The emotional well-being of the caregiver is as important as the emotional well-being of the person experiencing mental illness.
Ms Padukone credited her mother for recognising her symptoms and being a pillar of strength and support throughout her recovery. She said,
In my own case, for example, had my mother, as a caregiver, not identified my signs and symptoms, in my moment of vulnerability had she not had the presence of mind to tell me to or help me reach out to the professionals, I don’t know what state I would be in today. Ensuring I was regular with my treatment, with my consultations with the doctor and things like that. Of course, it takes a toll on the caregiver as well and that is not something new. I think caregivers in general, whether it is mental illness or any other form of illness, it takes a toll on the caregiver.
Now that the ‘Live Love Laugh’ Foundation is expanding its reach in rural areas, a special focus is on the well-being of caregivers as well. Ms Padukone said,
We have programmes where once a month all the carers come together; they form a group, share their stories, thoughts and ideas and they feel like a community. They do not feel like they are alone. And, I think, not feeling alone is such a huge part of this issue because we all suffer in silence. We are all struggling in silence. A large part of what we are trying to do here is bringing the community together – the community of people with mental illness but also the community of caregivers. Bring them together, share each other’s stories and know that you are not alone and we are in this together.
When asked what made her expand the initiative in rural India, Ms Padukone recalled her interview with NDTV in 2015 where she opened up about battling depression and said,
The days immediately after that (interview) made us realise how big the problem is, how vast the problem is and how deep the problem is. It was not just an urban problem and that mental illness choose not to spare anyone in that sense. It can affect anyone, any gender, any age group, you could be from any profession and so I think that is pretty much when we realised that it is not just an urban issue. When we set up the foundation and we felt internally that we had the capability to partner with people who could deliver our programmes is when we decided to expand into doing rural work as well.
The mental health advocate believes that many people in urban India do not know what mental illness is, which means the lack of awareness prevails in both urban and rural India and hence boils down to how we address the issue.
Further talking about her own mental well-being and the need to look after one’s mental health regularly, Ms Padukone said,
It is like with any illness that anyone has. Once you have had the illness, it is not something that leaves your system. It is something that will always play on your mind and so, it is the same with mental illness. At least in my case, it is not something that I wake up not thinking about. It is something I have to think about every day. I have to nurture my mind, my body and my spirit every day. It is work every day as is anything else. People go to the gym every day, they take care of their physical selves every day and so it is the same, exactly the same logic here as well. I think the difference is that I treat my mind as a part of my body and so, for me, taking care of my mind as well as my body is equal. It is work, it is work every day, and I am willing to commit to that. Once you have had a lived experience with mental illness, you do not want to go down that path again and so I am willing to put in that work every day to nurture my mind and my body.
Ms Padukone also shared the vision of Live Love Laugh which is to impact as many lives as possible and make mental health accessible for all. She said,
If mental health and access to mental health care can become as accessible as gyms are today, that for me would be a huge sign of success for the foundation. I keep comparing it to 10 years ago when gyms were sprouting and everyone in India got into fitness mania. Everyone understands the importance of physical fitness today. Once you sign up for it, you have a gym around the corner that you can go to, you sign up, it is accessible and you can choose the gym based on area, and other things. My dream is for that to happen for mental health as well – where you walk out and you are able to walk confidently without shame into the clinic to seek psychiatric treatment or a counseling session. That for me would be a success.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.