Thirty-year-old Deepika Padukone battled depression in 2014. Instead of closeting herself, she spoke about it candidly. Through her campaign ‘You Are Not Alone’, she plans to take her fight against mental illness, forward. Deepika wants to create social awareness about mental health and do away with stigmas attached to depression. Deepika has also partnered with mountaineer David Liano, who will climb Mt Everest carrying her ‘Live Love Laugh Foundation’ flag to support people fighting depression.
Starting with her own school Sophia’s High School in Bengaluru, the awareness campaign is set to cover over 200 schools to raise awareness, sensitise students and teachers and enable them to identify signs of anxiety and depression.
“We believe that schools can be the first line of defence for emotional and mental health disorders in our youth. We could also help connect the schools to counselling organisations and independent counsellors if they need such help,” Deepika told The Indian Express.
The programme has been scheduled to begin in a few schools in March this year, with the bulk of the programmes lined up for June when the new academic session starts. “Our aim is to bring the issue of mental health from the shadows and include this discussion in the drawing room conversations from being spoken of in hushed tones,” said Deepika.
According to official data, one out of every five Indians suffers from mental disorder leading to chronic depression, suicidal tendencies and work related stress with suicide rates at the highest between the age group of 15 years to 29 years.
Hopeful of expanding her initiative to the most vulnerable group of 15 years to 29 years, Deepika said, “Yes, the above-15 demographic is an important segment and we hope to touch this age group as we go along. As the foundation grows in scale, hopefully, we will be able to do a lot more but it is important to stay focused.”
Expressing her commitment towards fighting the mental disorder taboo, Deepika said that she would work towards creating a comprehensive national database of mental healthcare professionals. “We are committed for on-ground activities such as training GPs, creating a national database of mental healthcare professionals for easy access, furthering the cause through fundraising, partnering with other organisations and NGOs and establishing strong links with reputed institutes such as NIMHANS and TISS,” she said.
Under the umbrella of ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign, Padukone also plans to extend the awareness campaign to colleges and corporates in the years to come.