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Kanchan Rai of ‘Let Us Talk’ On Bridging Social Distancing During Pandemic

  • IWB Post
  •  October 10, 2020

The taboo behind mental health is lifting, in the sense that the word ‘mental health’ is recognized today. People don’t feel shy talking about it. But there is so much still to be done! The word has spread but the significance of what it really means is still not very clear to people,” says Kanchan Rai, a Mental Wellness Coach and founder of ‘Let Us Talk’.

Through her words, she portrays an honest reality. Yes, there is a lot of buzz around mental health in recent times and especially with 10th October being celebrated as World Mental Health Day across the globe. But how many of us truly understand what mental health really means?

Often the meaning of what comprises a mental illness oscillates between two extremes. Either it is trivialized to include common mood swings or a few days of sadness. Or on the other hand, it is looked upon as a condition where the individual is deemed abnormal and insane. Yet, mental health, just like physical health, is a scientific condition that has its triggers, causes, and cure.  It requires care, concern, and most importantly, an acknowledgment that moves beyond the ‘all is well, stuff happens to everyone’ rhetoric.

Kanchan Rai’s organization ‘Let Us Talk’ aims to spread the true understanding of what mental health entails. It helps those who suffer from mental issues, teaching ways to combat depression, and overcome mental trauma. A Harvard Business School graduate, Kanchan actively talks to people from all walks of life about issues that they have faced and what it took to overcome them. Through ‘Let Us Talk’, she brings out stories, including Sonu Nigam and Yuvraj Singh’s journeys, who have conquered mental illness and bounced back.

Someone who has suffered from depression herself, Kanchan highlights the acute mental stress caused by the pandemic. She has also been awarded a certificate for her outstanding support and humanitarian work during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she doesn’t stop at that. “I want people to not only cure themselves but for them to also help others figure out and fight through their struggles. I want to create a society where everyone is ready to listen to each other without being judgmental. I want an individual we are helping today to become a helping hand to others tomorrow.”

We spoke to Kanchan Rai who elucidates on the need for mental wellbeing, means to conquer mental illness, and her organization ‘Let Us Talk‘.

How did the idea of ‘Let us Talk’ come about? What triggered its inception?

Kanchan Rai: When I was going through a rough period or a dark phase, I just wanted to vent out everything going inside me. I wanted to talk about my experience and I was looking forward to meeting people who had similar experiences like me. I had my family and my friends to talk to, but I always wanted that there should be someone who has gone through the same mental experience or going through it so that we can exchange views. So this is how I thought of creating a platform where people who have gone through or who are suffering from the same mental problems could come and talk about them and try to learn from each other’s process or each other’s journey. They could share things that worked for them so as to ease the pain of another. I just wanted a platform that was available for everyone who was in the same boat.

You mentioned that you have also gone through a phase of depression. What helped you overcome and emerge from this phase?

Kanchan Rai: What helped me overcome the depression was the presence of a coach in my life. I would say that happened a bit too late but yes even before meeting the coach I was motivated to do something for myself. I wanted to come out of this zone and I started looking for someone who could help me out.

How can family members actively participate in the cure of a person suffering from depression?

Kanchan Rai: First of all, you have to educate yourself about depression and other mood disorders. When the person is feeling bad you can try to discover the triggers that make them feel this way. If you feel that there is something you can do to make them feel better you should do so, however, you have to be very careful not to make them feel worse. Also, at the same time, you as a caretaker have to take care of your personal mental health as well because seeing a person who you love dearly go through a painful situation can be difficult. Encourage them to seek help and support for any kind of professional help. Remind them how incredibly strong they are, try to be there for them, do things that can make them feel better like jokes, laughter therapy, or whatever can heal them emotionally. Let them know that they are not going to feel the same way always and be there to listen. That is the best thing you can do, without being judgmental.

Why do you choose to speak to celebrities to unfold their mental journey? How are their stories more relatable than the stories of ordinary people?

Kanchan Rai: Celebrities have achieved something and there are so many people who follow their lives and their success stories. Success is never an easy thing to achieve. So if people get to know about the celebrity’s mental struggle it boosts and helps them break the myth or taboo that has been created around mental health. And it does create an impact. I have seen many celebrities coming and talking about the journey of their mental health and many people have gotten inspired and have started coming out and talking about it themselves.

During COVID and times of social distancing, what advice would you give to people to balance their mental wellbeing? 

Kanchan Rai: During COVID we are supposed to follow social and not emotional distancing. So please don’t emotionally distance yourself from your loved ones. Try to be there for them even if it means virtually. Being there for them gives you also a chance of spending time with them which is good for your health as well.

As an advice I would say, don’t push yourself to be happy always. Being sad is also a part and parcel of life, so don’t ignore that feeling. Create a schedule and try to fix a particular time for whatever you are doing. The schedule includes time for social media, television, work, work out, time spend by yourself, indulging in activities that are near and dear to you, etc. Also, don’t try to jump to the end result. Instead, try to achieve smaller goals a step at a time. Slow progress is always healthy because you can stick to the commitment and you don’t have to put too much energy or efforts that are beyond anyone to continue for a longer run.

It is often said that the world has become smaller, communication easier due to technology and social media. However, it is also believed that the more people are virtually connected, the less they actually bond or become friends with each other. According to you, does this hold true? How would you suggest to build more meaningful relations, so that one remains mentally and emotionally stable?

Kanchan Rai: Yes, this is true, but if we put some effort or if we actually push ourselves to create some meaningful relations, then that is not too difficult. We should focus on creating more real friends than social media friends, but it does not mean that social media friends are no friends. Being on social media can help you control your social anxiety. Another advantage of social media is a friendship on your terms. Before getting too personal with a person you can take a decision on how much you want to invest in the friendship. So yes, there are a few drawbacks but there are also many benefits of friendships on social media. You have to create a balance and use social media in a positive way, invest your personal touch, too, because that’s how you can maintain a healthy and stable relationship.

Finally, what do you envisage as the biggest strength of Let us Talk and how far would you like it to reach and grow.

Kanchan Rai: The biggest strength of ‘Let us Talk’ is the team. I have very good doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, therapists, and the best part is we all align with the same thought. The idea is to spread awareness and being there when a person requires us. It’s about working as a team and moving in the same direction, align with the ideology, and define the roles and regulations that we need to follow. Also, the support of people that we get is another huge strength. People have started believing, they have started trusting us and they have started coming to us with their problems. The trust that we have established is one of the biggest strengths for us. I would want ‘Let Us Talk’ to be there for each and everyone who needs help related to mental health.

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