CHENNAI: The Live Love Laugh (LLL) Foundation, founded by Deepika Padukone in 2015, launched its rural mental health program in Tiruvallur district on Saturday. While aiming to make mental health free and accessible to people, destigmatising mental health seems to be a task. Collaborating with a local non-profit, Vasantham Federation of Differently-Abled, in Chinna Ikkam village, LLL has managed to encourage several people to vocalise their issues.
The primary goal of the organisation is to offer mental health services free of cost to those in need and those from underprivileged backgrounds.
Livingston, president of Vasantham and a differently-abled man himself, says, “With the help of Aasha village workers and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) workers, we were able to identify people with mental illnesses who needed intervention and our help. Through their ground research and the support provided by LLL, we were able to not only get preliminary medical attention but also look at providing medication for their condition free of cost.”
Susai Durairaj, who is a part of Vasantham and is also the rural mental health program project manager of LLL, says, “As social workers, we see comradeship among the villagers. They are very forthcoming in helping out their friends and family. In some cases, when there is no one to care for an individual, neighbours bring them to us and become their primary carers.”
Giving insight on the issues women and men face, K Jayalalitha, Primary Health Care (PHC) worker of Kalayanakuppam, who also helps carers, says, “Pregnant women deal with postpartum depression while not realising it has a name or their symptom has a medical relevance. There have been many cases of unwanted pregnancies where the parents of either the boy or girl are not happy with their relationship. With regards, to men, they are not as open to discussing mental issues as women but they try to talk and convey what is bothering them.”
Selvi S, an ICS worker says, “Sometimes men talk to us through their wives. Few even call and consider us akka (sister) and share their problems openly.”
While the program has been able to identify targeted mental triggers pertaining to men and women, speaking to DT Next Anisha Padukone, CEO of LLL opens up on whether the organisation was able to scrutinise the queer community, “It is an inclusive program and from that perspective, if anyone has been identified, treatment will be provided. But before that, there will be training.”
“Vasantham and LLL helped me get a Unique Disability ID card to avail benefits for people with mental illness. Through this card, I receive a monthly allowance of Rs 1000 for my psychiatric medicines. It’s not a huge amount, but we make do,” says a 38-year-old woman affected by auditory and visual hallucinations.
The initiative forms its base from partnering with local non-profit groups. Speaking to DT Next, Deepika Padukone says, “We’ve collaborated with groups in Karnataka and Odisha. So, it’s all about collaborating with the right groups who share the same goal. In some instances, they already have the expertise, like in Davangere, Karnataka. We do our training with them and broaden their horizons.
“They (local non-profits) are obviously fantastic at what they do. We just had to come in and assist them with the funds and facilities.”