Monday, February 26, 2024

Making mental health & mindfulness more accessible

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Maintaining positive mental health and treating any mental health conditions is crucial to stabilizing constructive behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. The Pioneer connects with the founder of The Mindfulness Foundation, who has helped many people overcome their day-to-day mental health struggles.

K. Ramya Sree
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves. Often, we tend to ignore the state of our mental health and end up doing things that drain our brains. Self-care is how you take your power back, and in order to gain this, mindfulness is the key.

In India, The Mindfulness Foundation (TMF), a mental health platform is the only Indian partner of the Oxford Mindful Foundation by Oxford University. The foundation aims to make mindfulness techniques and MBCT programmes accessible to varied groups based on their data-based research around – workplaces, schools, and lower-income groups – in India. It will focus on integrating mindfulness through modern psychology, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help individuals manage lifestyle stress, anxiety, and the onset of depression.

Today, we have with us the founder of the TMF, Geetika Arora Bhojak, who has helped a lot of people overcome their day-to-day mental health struggles. She has also been working with corporates in India and globally to help them deal with the challenges of the new reality post-pandemic.

Asked what made her start her journey into the mental health space and become a mindful coach, Geetika said, “Just like a lot of people, I had my own mental health journey as well. Since we do not place as much importance on mental health the way we do on physical health, I was struggling to understand what was going on with me, trying to alleviate some of the symptoms I was experiencing, due to the lack of resources available. Seeing people in my family go through similar struggles made me realise that the lack of awareness makes these challenges go unnoticed and untreated, causing so many underlying problems. These situations propelled me to learn more about the field. During the pandemic, I had earned certification as a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy coach, allowing me to not only help myself but also others in my workplace and community.”

“It is imperative for family and friends to create an environment free of judgement. Normalizing mental health problems and talking about them without any fear of judgement can be a way to reduce the stigma among people who may be wary of the term. Showing compassion for people with mental health issues is important because it allows them to feel safe enough to talk about their struggles. We must normalise seeking help for mental illnesses the same way we do for any physical symptoms—that there is a problem and seeking help or treatment for it is important. Relaxing exercises and prayer can improve your mindset and vision of life. Research shows that meditation can help you feel calm and enhance its effects. Making yoga and meditation a part of your daily routine is another way we can lead a more mindful life.”

Geetika feels social stigmas are the main obstacles to inclusive and open mental health education in the country. “Even today, people with mental disorders are seen as ‘crazy’ and untreatable. Despite India being the country with the highest suicide rates, mental health is not a priority in schools and colleges. It is largely the urban population that is now becoming more aware of such issues due to books, movies, and the internet. The government must collaborate with schools and mental health practitioners to introduce these topics into the education system and encourage dialogue on the subject. Even those who are educated on the subject may not seek help because they are afraid of being rejected by family and friends, as well as the high cost of treatment. Subsidising mental health and making it a part of insurance can go a long way toward helping transform the way mental illnesses are viewed in the country,” she added.

TMF is here to take care of all that. She asserted that The Mindful Foundation aims to abolish the stigma around mental illnesses, raise awareness about making mental health everyone’s prerogative, and assist others in becoming more aware of their surroundings and being in the moment. Mindfulness training helps an individual become one with their bodies and emotions and imbibe a sense of intrinsic self-awareness. Breathing is known to calm the heart and also reduce adrenaline, which is often the cause of stress-induced decision-making.

These practices are critical to understanding the subconscious mind and recognising negative behavioural patterns. And the foundation includes all of these sessions.

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