Interview by Nisha Dhawan
- Hi Samiya, thanks for taking out the time to talk with us. Could you please introduce yourself to the readers of Indspire Me?
My name is Samiya Nasim; I’m 22 and am currently based out of Chennai. A computer science engineer by education, I currently work as a Data Analyst at one of the top strategy consulting firms. I am also one of the co-founders of LonePack, an NGO.
- What is LonePack? When did it originate and what is the philosophy behind it?
LonePack is a registered not-for-profit organization that is aimed at creating awareness and combating mental health issues among the youth in India. The idea for LonePack was conceived in 2015 but we were a little apprehensive about taking the plunge. We were not trained in this field, nor did we have any idea about how non-profits functioned. However, by the time we were graduating from college (2016), we realized that we could not ignore this issue any longer. We took the leap and decided that whatever we didn’t know, we would learn; if we needed help, we would ask for it; but doing nothing was no longer an option.
The name “LonePack” came about because mental health issues are isolating in nature. People go through difficult situations feeling as if there is no one else in the world who understands what they’re going through, and that there is no one to support them on the journey. At LonePack, we want to build a safe space, a community, to allow people to share their stories, their experiences and fears comfortably. We hope to provide them with the right information and support to the best of our abilities. We envision a world where mental health battles are not fought in the shadows any longer.
- Mental Health is an issue which is often not discussed by our families and friends and is rather ignored. Why do you think this disconnect exists?
In my experience, the disconnect exists because of two major reasons: Stigma and Lack of accessible resources. People often don’t even acknowledge mental health as an issue, leave alone openly discussing about it. Friends and family are uncomfortable talking about a highly stigmatized topic and associating themselves with it. This stigma is to a large extent caused by the lack of appropriate resources. There isn’t enough information disseminated to the general public on a regular basis to effectively address the stigma. Eventually, because we don’t know how to deal with mental health issues, we choose to ignore it instead.
Also, India has a unique socio-cultural environment, with a lot of emphasis on family and society. This can exacerbate the fear of judgement and make us feel like anything short of perfection is abject failure. Such a mindset makes it difficult for us to acknowledge mental health as a priority and reach out for help.
- What changes has LonePack brought into people’s lives till now? Please share some stories.
At LonePack we do a lot of awareness events and encourage peer to peer support systems. After these events, we’ve had a lot of people reach out to us and thank us for talking about mental health. It makes them feel better to know that the struggles they face daily are now being acknowledged. However, the incident that’s closest to my heart is of a person who’d often reach out to us when they were going through a tough time.
We’d try to just be supportive and provide a patient ear. Eventually, she started to face her fears and shared her triumphs with us as well. Hearing her talk about her progress and how LonePack helped her with the same really helped validate the journey we’ve set out on. The entire LonePack team thinks of her as a personal friend now!
- What do you need to make LonePack a success?
We would like to establish our presence in multiple cities across India and directly interact with the youth at multiple forums. To do so, we need to build a strong team of committed people and look for means of funding to help us achieve our goal.
- How can our readers connect with you?
We maintain a relatively active social media presence (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). People can directly message us on any of the forums. We can also reached via our website (www.lonepack.org) and email ID (firstname.lastname@example.org). People can reach out to us to volunteer, collaborate with us on a specific project or even just to share their stories.
- Please share an inspiring message for the readers of Indspire Me.
Never let your fears be an excuse not to start. It’s amazing what you can accomplish once you just get started. Also, always be willing to ask for help. You’ll receive help from the most unexpected places and it helps keep you going in tough situations.
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About the Interviewer
Nisha Dhawan is a fashion and English literature student. Her interests lie in fashion , fitness , travel and photography. She is an animal lover who wishes to do something big for the homeless animals in the near future and also has a pet dog named Tyson.