Published: 21st June 2021
Therapy, sharing circles and more — this 26-year-old Mumbaikar is ensuring that the mental health of COVID warriors gets the attention it needs
One Future Collective, founded by Vandita Moraka, is out there making sure that COVID warriors aren't bogged down by mental fatigue by offering them different types of therapy options
COVID warriors have done so much for us, what have we done for them, especially for their mental health? Getting ambushed by violence on one day, backhanded comments on another — seriously, ask yourself, compared to all that they are facing, what are we doing to help? One Future Collective took this question really seriously. This is why, last month, they decided to offer an array of therapy support online. Over 245 COVID warriors, and this definition includes anyone who has been at the frontlines of this virus we are fighting on war-footing, have availed this opportunity. This is how it works.
January 2021 is when it all started. "All the research that we have is either US or UK-centric, we needed India-centric data points with regards to how the pandemic is affecting COVID warriors. That's where we began," says Vandita Moraka, Founder and CEO, One Future Collective. No points for guessing that all data points led them to believe that the frontline workers needed support. So the collective got right to it. They drew up plans to offer three types of virtual mental health support — free-of-cost four one-on-one therapy sessions, sharing circles and community spaces. A fundraiser organised towards the end of April helped them with Rs 20 lakh to power this initiative.
"We onboarded volunteers by starting an open call and asking them to sign up with us. Then, we set up a team of 106 counsellors after a thorough verification process," explains the 26-year-old. There are two important points the development policy consultant, legal researcher and gender rights facilitator informs us of. No matter their qualification, there was no set standard for being a mental health counsellor, after all, not all diplomas, degrees or certificates gives one the validity to offer therapy. So their internal mental health professionals set up their own thorough standards. Then there was the question of paying the mental health counsellors. "We did not want them to suffer financial burnout so we decided to pay them Rs 500 per session and Rs 1,000 per group session," she points out.
One Future Collective decided to offer three options, because talk therapy is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. They might not even know what they are going through is grief, leave alone articulate it. That's where the community spaces come in. It starts with poignant questions like, "Has your work been giving you joy lately?". Activities like reflective journaling and letter-writing activities or even some dance movement therapy follow. "It's for those who don't want to talk or engage, but want to express,” says the youngster. Sharing circles is your typical group therapy, one mental health support professional, one technical person from the collective and ten participants engage in intense conversations followed by mini activities like poetry-writing or art.
"Mental health is a spectrum, it's not just about being sad or depressed. They might not talk about COVID alone, they actually might talk about their relationship or family issues. If our team detects that clinical intervention is needed, we propose that as well," explains the Mumbaikar who launched the collective in December 2017. They are also circulating mental health resources and activities via Telegram which has benefitted about 5,000 people and they are working on developing a WhatsApp bot that will help them with all the queries they get. So, essentially, they are just getting started.
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