This NGO counters Blue Whale challenge, shatters stigma around mental healthShinjini Chowdhury
Chennai-based LonePack spreads awareness about mental health and encourages conversation about it.
While in college, Siddhaarth S., Samiya Nasim and Naveen H. knew of a collegemate who committed suicide. “Everyone was uncomfortable speaking of it,” recalls Siddhaarth.
LonePack started as a Facebook page in August 2016 when the trio were in their early twenties. It was registered as an NGO that same year because of the need these youngsters felt for constructive dialogue on mental health.
WHO reports that 56 million Indians suffer from depression and 38 million from anxiety disorders. This 2017 report states that 7.5 percent of Indians suffer from mental health disorders that require expert intervention. Yet, most of these battles are fought from the shadows, as mental health is a crushing stigma in our society. LonePack fights against this through its various campaigns.
The name of the NGO is subtle wordplay.
Samiya believes that people with mental health issues form a disjointed pack. Through their initiative LonePack Letters, LonePack is collecting hundreds of handwritten letters and distributing these to people. The organisation is partnering with corporates, NGOs, restaurants, and the like.
The aim for the letters is to bring a smile to readers’ faces. Letters are collected, then vetted, and placed at different places for unsuspecting people to pick up and read. Along with each letter, there is placed a note on the prevalence of mental health issues and how a few words of support from a loved one can go a long way. LonePack Letters is being run in Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad from the end of January 2018 to the end of March.
Another popular campaign is the LonePack Buddy. “What if we had paramedics for mental health?” muses Siddhaarth.
Volunteers can sign up to be screened and trained in the basic skills of providing emotional support to others. Those who would like to speak to someone for help and support can send an email to a given address. They are then assigned a listener. Anonymity is maintained of both listener and help-seeker.
Waves of positivity
For World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), LonePack encouraged people on social media to write messages that they themselves would like to hear when they hit a low. The response was overwhelming. The team collected these messages, put them on individual posters, and uploaded these on Facebook in a folder called ‘Wall of Positivity’.
There's nothing better than kicking back, snuggling up with a blanket and popcorn to watch a movie. Rewatch a movie that makes you feel good and happy. It could be anything from 'Dead Poets Society' to 'Pretty Woman'! – This is what today’s task for Save the Whale reads! LonePack started this as a stance against the fatal Blue Whale challenge. The idea is to spread hope, love and positivity, and the will to live.
The founders are all working professionals. Their initiatives are paid for from their own earnings. They welcome volunteers for the LonePack Letters and LonePack Buddy campaigns, and generally to work to fulfil the organisation’s mission of an emotionally safer world.