The Commune: Emotional distress in cities

Dear friends,

I don’t quite remember at what point in my life I began to recognise that mental well-being lies on a continuum of sorts. From happiness, wellness to mild or limited distress to diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health conditions – it has many shades.

Things were different when I was 17. I discovered Sylvia Plath, her book The Bell Jar, and was immediately taken by these words she wrote: “I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again”. As a teenager struggling to stay afloat, these lines made me think and frankly hope for recovery that would be quick and instantaneous. I wanted a simple and easy solution. Maybe I could snap my fingers and all would be well again; or I could close my eyes and open them to a new day brimming with hope. Many years, several books, experiences and post much reflection later, I have learned that coping can be a long and winding, complex yet fulfilling journey.

The National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16 tells us that 150 million Indians are in need of active mental health interventions but less than 30 million have sought care. The Survey identifies a huge treatment and care gap in our country and highlights multiple reasons for this from lack of awareness to affordability of care. In our first TCC podcast we explored loneliness as one of the possible reasons for growing mental distress that if left unchecked, can escalate into poor mental and physical health outcomes. In our second episode, we expand the pool to understand all forms of emotional distress in the city.

We speak to clinical psychologists Aparna Joshi and Tanuja Babre from iCALL (Initiating Concern for All), a counseling service run by the School of Human Ecology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. It offers free telephone, chat and email-based counseling services in multiple languages. They discuss with us their understanding of and approach to emotional distress in cities, nature and kinds of distress experienced by individuals and a range of coping methods.

As we enter the second half of our Mental Well-being month, we put greater emphasis on coping. In the essay, ‘Care and Love for the Body and Mind: Intentional actions in moments of distress’, our dear friend Prathama Raghavan explores how we can respond to stress in the short and long term. Tanuja Babre, Coordinator – iCALL, in her article ‘Taking Care: A short guide on self care’ breaks down what self care means and how we can effectively incorporate it within our lives.

Our online campaign will delve deeper and share many tips and tricks on coping. I am particularly excited to share one of my favorites in detail: the care box! In the coming days, we will discuss what a care box is and how to create and use it in our daily lives. So don’t forget to join us in our social media spaces to keep track of all this and more! Also, do share these resources with anyone who might be interested or might find them of use. You can always write to us by replying to this email.

Have a good festive week ahead.



(Team TCC)

Leave a Reply