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A space for dialogue

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A new initiative explores the issue of mental health through music, poetry, comedy and story-telling

The issue of mental health is increasingly coming into focus, and on May 26, a wonderful new initiative was launched. The city-based organisation, Calm Space, founded by Smita Sahay, organised the event ‘Calm Space – Dialogues’, a series of performance events showcasing poetry, music, comedy and storytelling around mental health. The programme was held at The Castiko Space in Versova.

“Through Calm Space we initiate conversations around mental health, mental illnesses and everything in between,” says Smita, who is a writer, poet and anxiety and fibromyalgia survivor. She has been working in the mental health space after graduating from the Indian School of Business.

“While I was running my previous company that worked on screening and diagnosis we realised that the issue of mental health is a much deeper one; it is not only a medical issue, it is also a cultural one,” she adds. “The stigma creates an un-scalable wall for most people, cooping them in their loneliness, pain and shame. Through the Support Group programme we bring together community building, therapy and a safe space for survivors, and through Dialogues we provide a platform to artistic expressions on the subject to fight the stigma.”

In the first of these programmes, Hasan Baldiwala sang some lovely songs touching upon issues such as break-ups and the contagion of suicide. He played to hearty applause and ended his set with his favourite, the one that he made the audience hum along, Rivers and Roads.

Jackie J Thakkar's jokes addressed depression, the trauma of breakup and the importance of not bottling up one’s feelings.

Dhruv Sharma told a story of a war veteran who is struggling with the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of war, the anxiety of a changing world, ageism and the pain of unrequited love.

Kaushiki Saraswat's poetry was powerful and beautiful and moving. Her piece addressed body image issues, self-love and the pain that we inflict on ourselves for not fitting accepted norms of beauty.

The programme was curated and hosted by the writer and poet, Aekta Khubchandani, who had

performed at the previous event co-hosted by Calm Space earlier this year. “These talented young performers proved that conversations around mental health need not be devoid of hope and light, music and laughter,” says Smita. “Their stories, and those of the artists who performed in the open mic slots, such as the singer Sharanya and the poet Sara Luna, were beautiful and moving and a celebration from loneliness, shame and stigma.”

If you are a depression, anxiety, chronic pain, fibromyalgia or related conditions, and want to join the support group and group therapy programme, keep an eye out for www.calmspace.in. The site is currently under construction, but is expected to be up by the weekend.

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