Members can share their experiences and problems in a safe, non-judgemental space.
It was a joyful evening. The meaningful conversation and subtle insights were interspersed with frequent laughter. The first meeting of ‘Ekaaa’, a support group for people with mental health issues, was an unqualified success. The proof: Members left with smiles on their faces and a glow of warmth in their hearts.
In a first-of-its-kind initiative in Ahmedabad, ‘Ekaaa’ is the brain child of psychotherapist and a faculty of psychology at Karnavati University, Purnima Gupta. She has been running Anahata Mental Health Clinic in the city for 18 years. Anyone over the age of 19 years can join Ekaaa. There is a nominal charge of Rs. 300 per meeting. Each meeting is for 90 minutes duration and will be facilitated by a psychotherapist or counsellor. The planned frequency for the offline meeting is once in three weeks.
People who have faced or are facing mental health challenges can share their stories at the support group. Empathy, respect and confidentiality are the mantras for the members.
What motivated the launching of such a unique initiative? “There are two reasons I launched Ekaaa. First, we all look for emotional and social support when it comes to our vulnerable moments. Usually, people reach out to friends and family or a therapist. Ekaaa is an alternative. We are providing a safe and non-judgemental place where people can come. They don’t have to reveal everything about themselves and yet they will be understood here. Second, many people do not want to take the therapy or counselling route. The reasons may be affordability, the stigma that is still attached to it, or difficulty in being consistent. At Ekaaa, members can share their thoughts, feelings, problems and experiences. Through this catharsis and by listening to others, they can discover how to work with themselves and heal,” says Purnima.
What is the significance of the name Ekaaa? “The name Ekaaa signifies that we are all one. Our problems may appear different. But our challenges, thought processes and feelings are similar. There is a great degree of commonality. The word ‘Ekaaa’ also promotes a feeling of belonging which we all crave for,” she says.
What are the objectives of the group? One, is to provide a place for free and open discussions for people with diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues. The support group will be focusing on neurotic issues like anxiety, depression and many others. It will not include people with psychosis or addiction issues as they need specialized attention. The second objective is to help people recognize the importance of mental health and take their mind-body alignment seriously. Third, since at Ekaaa there are no labels or tags, a person can look at himself or herself separate from the mental health issue. Just because a person has a mental health issue does not mean it completely defines who he or she is, emphasizes Purnima.
How is this support group different from group therapy? “Group therapy involves treatment while a support group provides a safe and secure place for people to open up about their mental health. There is no therapy or counselling involved here,” she explains.
The activities of the group will evolve as per the suggestions of members and their comfort level, she says. Members may share their life journeys. And, suggest handy tips to each other from their own experiences. One activity that is planned is members writing emails or letters to each other. So that they remember that there is always somebody who cares for them. Games will also be played at the meetings once the members are comfortable with the idea. Perhaps, affirmations may be introduced along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) if members so wish, says Purnima.
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Useful initiative at a time like this .the article gives a good idea of what to expect in the group . Best wishes !
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