Mental health awareness, writing, and sarees ... When you have passions as discrete as these three, how do you bring them together? Hashtags to the rescue!
When I started my Instagram account a few years ago, I wanted to use it primarily as a platform to spread awareness about mental health, at least among the people in my network. I had no clear social media strategy, no structured plan. I started posting information about mental health on and off, along with other random posts. Since sarees, especially handloom ones, are an enduring passion, there would be several posts with me in a saree. Soon I realised that every post with a saree attracted more comments and likes than a long mental health information post did. Essentially, a saree post grabbed eyeballs, and people took the effort to read the post. That is when I had my Eureka moment, and thus was born #SixYardsOfMentalHealthAwareness
Using my passion for the six-yard garment to spread awareness about various mental health related matters has since been my mission on social media; on Instagram, to be specific. My posts are long, but I try to word them simply, in ways that demystify mental health, and make it easy for people to relate to. Most of us go through life's challenges that stretch our emotional and mental resources at some point in our lives.Some of us grapple with more severe mental health challenges, either within ourselves or in our loved ones. Bringing these big and small challenges out into the open, and talking about them, helps us see that we are not alone. And more importantly, that help is at hand.
A magical drape
My modus operandi is simple. Every time I drape a saree, I urge myself to write a note on some mental health matter, something that will be useful to lay people randomly scrolling through their feeds. I have tried to write about everyday challenges that many of us go through, such as parenting issues, relationship niggles, generational difficulties, stress related matters, self-care in various forms. I have also tried to share byte-sized information on more severe issues such as depression, anxiety, gaslighting, self-harm, mental health challenges in children and the youth, and other aspects of mental health.
I have shared vignettes, personal experiences, my own insights as a therapist, and professional information. The posts get conversations started, with others adding their own similar experiences, some contributing more information, and others realising that what they assumed was normal was in fact a mental health concern. It gets people talking, sharing, and most importantly, thinking about mental well-being, which is exactly what my intention behind the posts is.
And yes, every #SixYardsOfMentalHealthAwareness ends with a few words describing the drape. Either its weave or make, or a little personal history about how it came to me, and my personal association with it. As to me, saree-ing is one way to keep myself upbeat and energised, it is my go-to mood uplifter! As I have mentioned in many posts, it is my most favourite self-care practice, and one that always works. In its own way, it is also a way to encourage more and more women to take to the six yards, and make it the outfit of choice for every occasion – personal and professional.
This October, I decided to take the next step in this small effort to spread awareness.I invited all the ladies in my network to also drape a saree, and share some mental health story, their own experience, or some information, on a post, using the hashtag and posting it on their feed or story. Participation came from several other mental health professionals in my network, as well as from friends and others in my network, who enthusiastically took up the hashtag, and made it their own.
My modus operandi is simple. Every time I drape a saree, I urge myself to write a note on some mental health matter, something that will be useful to lay people randomly scrolling through their feeds. I have tried to write about everyday challenges that many of us go through, such as parenting issues, relationship niggles, generational difficulties, stress related matters, self-care in various forms.
The first baby steps towards normalising talk about mental well-being were taken! I hope that this little movement gathers momentum as it goes along, out to the ladies of the nation, and indeed the world, who can flaunt their saree pallus and proudly talk about mental health!
So, if you are someone who loves draping your six yards, the next time you do, get someone to take a picture, share something about mental health – a quote, a piece of information, a question – anything, really, add the hashtag #SixYardsofMentalHealthAwareness and post away on your Instagram account! Let us all use the power of the hashtag, and the incomparable grace and beauty of the six yards, to break down the stigma around mental illness!