Deepika Padukone, a famous Indian film actress and producer who found it very difficult to share with anyone that she was anxious and depressed despite a successful career because of the stigma associated with mental health within the Indian culture has channeled her personal journey into Live Love Laugh Foundation.
How are you?
For many, responding “fine,” masks struggles with anxiety or depression because of shame or a false belief that no one else has these feelings. But the India-based Live Love Laugh Foundation is quickly changing such mental health perceptions and creating a platform for resources to better access care and well-being.
“Thankfully we had access to the right kind of professional help, which a lot of people don’t have access to,” explained Deepika’s sister Anisha Padukone, director of the Foundation, which helps people find therapists, educates about mental health issues and creates a more empathetic society.
Through its award-winning Dobara Poocho (“Ask Again”) campaign, the Foundation also aims to shift the automated response that follows “How are you?” to really understanding where someone is coming from and taking the time to help them if needed.
In Southeast Asia, mental health care is not as advanced and accessible as it is in the U.S. or Europe, Padukone explained. “You can really see a vast difference,” she said, noting that seeing a counselor or getting medication is less common in the Indus region and there are fewer conversations around the topic.
“Mental health is not the same, but having said that, this is an illness that transcends geographies, boundaries, affects people of any religion, country, socioeconomic background or gender,” Padukone said.
Globally, depression affects some 300 million people. In India, one out of five people suffer from depression during their lifetime, and suicide is the leading cause of death among the country’s youth. Yet the stigma attached to mental health disorders weighs heavily on the shoulders of many suffering in India, leaving them without the courage to seek help or the access to medical professionals.
Mental health issues “could happen to you or someone around you at any point in time, and the best way to tackle it is to be prepared,” Padukone added. This readiness calls for an ability to recognize the problem and be aware of what must be done, as well as normalizing the conversation just as you would with any form of physical illness.
Given the Indian diaspora, Padukone mentioned that “in a world where everyone is moving around for better opportunities, it’s understandable that you could be unsure of where you belong.” In turn, this could lead to feelings of loneliness or mental health challenges.
As a professional golfer, Padukone is no stranger to the world of high-pressure situations where you tend to expect the very best of yourself and at times, experience setbacks and disappointment. However, learning how to deal with these types of situations taught her lessons that she believes cannot always be learned in the classroom or the workplace. She carries many of these skills with her as director of the Foundation.
The Foundation has made great strides in the short time since its establishment in 2015 to become a trusted and frequent first-choice resource to which people in India turn on their journey to seek help. However, this presents a big responsibility for the organization.
“Our work has just begun; we’re in it for the long run,” Padukone said. The Foundation’s future goals include continuing to build the narrative responsibly around mental health in India and to expand and scale-up their programs to honor its mission to profoundly help those who are struggling with anxiety or depression.
“My message to everyone would be if you notice any change in yourself or someone around you, seek professional help and know you’re not alone,” Padukone said.
In the U.S. the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and Wikipedia maintains a list of country-specific crisis lines. Visit The Live Love Foundation for additional information.