‘Haathi in the Room’ pegs in with World Mental Health Day celebrated on October 10 every year

By Manju Mittal

On Saturday afternoon on October 6, 2018,    I had the honour of attending ”˜R U OK’ charity event in Parramatta, ”˜Haathi in the Room’ organised in collaboration with Tamil Woman’s Development Group. The event hosted  an afternoon tea at Parramatta RSL Club with a focus on mental health. It was a huge success with likeminded attendees turning up to support the charity event.

The aim was to inspire people to have more open conversations, spend more time with people you care about, who care about you, quality time and conversation can strengthen these relationships which we rely on for support when life gets tough.  Mental well being is as important as physical wellbeing and both are also interrelated.

”˜Haathi in the Room’ provided information around the following three themes: Community Engagement through photo voice, Stigma attached to mental health and breaking that barrier and Live Experiences.

The afternoon began with an introduction and vision of ”˜Haathi in the Room’ by Megha Agarwal and Nitasha Bhatia. Haathi in the Room was set up two years ago by likeminded friends to raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to the mental illness within the South Asian Community. Its torch bearers are young professional ladies – Nitasha Bhatia, Megha Agarwal, Vidhisha Khetwani and Monica Das under the mentorship of community champion and most respected veteran community member Sue Advani.

”˜Haathi in the Room’ team recently had attended a workshop on photo voice and media facilitated by Mental Health Commission. Some photo voice from there were selected and presented by Monica Das and Manju Sri of TWDG at ”˜Haathi in the Room’.  It was a very powerful way of sharing stories of mental health journey accompanied by a photo depicting the situation followed by video of live experiences shared by brave hearts Monica Das and Seemita Varma. Message through this was that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and it’s Ok to be not Ok.

Viji Dhayanathan and Suchie shared their insights and success stories about managing their mental health. It was quite inspiring and emotional to hear their stories and to feel the bond thus developed. Chairman of ”˜R U OK’ Kamal Sarna think tank and an author and a global speaker on resilience and leadership, shared the key messages from R U OK and emphasised on the importance of the art of listening, giving quality time to our children and how that affects their resilience. Kamal also added how smart phones are killing face to face interactions these days.

In the recent years, technology has redefined friendships that occur with the click of a button, we can add a friend or make a new connection. Its ok when things are going fine. Though our most important and powerful connections happen when we connect face to face and when things are not ok.

Highlight of the event was Megha Agarwal’s informative and educational presentation, she spoke on the topic of the importance of looking after our mental health and stated this could be done by practicing the following: Positive thinking by understanding power of thought, Gratitude and Meditation. She also conducted a small exercise session with the attendees to demonstrate power of positive thoughts, and also spoke of many challenges we face in the community and our daily lives.

The event ended with a game of Bingo and raffle prizes and everyone found the whole experience very relaxing, informative and stress free. Guests mingled and mixed bonding with each other making friends and enjoying sipping afternoon tea and delicious vegetarian sandwiches. Sue Advani was very pleased with all proceeds going to the ”˜R U OK’ and she thanked guests who attended the event.

The event was a wonderful experience.   It was great opportunity to hear the views of some women and members. They provided great suggestions and insights into how to improve our mental health. For me personally the experience was quite unique and helped overcome the normal tensions of modern day life as it opened up a new dimension in my life and I am sure others felt the same.


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