Death is one of the biggest fears in most of the people. If not our own, we are scared of our loved ones leaving us. When such a tragedy strikes us we crumble down and take a long time to get back on our feet. But is it possible to mourn and think about benefiting others at the same time? Lakshmi did it.
There are a lot of twists and turns in her story but it is important to hear her present perspective. Lakshmi Sreenivasan has understood the importance of mental health, and has come forward with an initiative to safeguard it.
Not Too Late
“More than the lack of strength and resilience, I think what we lack is empathy, compassion, and most importantly, the lack of awareness on mental health. I see in India, culturally, we have hugely stigmatised mental health in our society. We are comfortable talking about physical issues. Many-a-times physical illness is glorified, but mental health has never been considered important. The mere mention of counselling is met with raised eyebrows and the individual is then labelled mad, pagal, psycho etc. But that’s not true. Every individual goes through some psychological/ mental issue at least once in their lifetime. And there is empirical data available on the same. Because it’s so stigmatised, people do not come out of their closets and end up suffering for years until it’s too late.”
Lakshmi came from a family which had the worst case scenario. Her parents were always seen fighting and flinging verbal abuses at each other. All of her three sisters trembled in fear as they prayed that the verbal abuse doesn’t take a violent turn. It actually didn’t, as later her mother decided to shift to Chennai tI Lakshmi’s grandmothers house. In just STD 6, Lakshmi had realised the reason for the chaos in her house. It was all because of her father’s malicious intentions towards her elder sister.
Bed of Thorns
When Lakshmi grew up, she had the suffocating social pressure and her grandmother’s who wanted them to get married as early as possible. So, Lakshmi got married at the age of 19 when she was in her first year of graduation. But, even that was possible after facing hunger for four days, and threats to run away from the house just to let her continue her studies after STD 12.
She did her B.Com from the University of Madras, between which she gave birth to her child while in second year. All this was possible because of her supportive in-laws. She then moved to Mumbai in 2003, and completed her PGDBM in Marketing from ICFAI, and also did her Post graduation in Psychology from IGNOU.
“Sometimes we stumble upon the purpose of our lives in the most dreadful and painful situations. I stumbled upon my life purpose with the passing away of my sister,” says Lakshmi. Her sister died battling cancer at the age of 39.
Losing And Learning
Lakshmi adds, “I learnt during her illness that more than her excruciating physical state, what affected her more was a lack of emotional support. She deserved omeone who could give her an empathetic ear and caring sensitivity. Café Counsel was born out of this agonising situation.”
Lakshmi created this online platform to reach out to as many people and be easily accessible. Café Counsel is a mental and emotional well-being service provider. Besides, with technology and online solution they offer total anonymity to users, to eliminate the social stigmatisation. If we consider certain estimates, approximately 70 million Indians suffer from major to minor mental health issues.
Lakshmi has been practising Psychotherapy since 2008 and has noticed that people need someone to listen to, as there is too much stress, struggle, competition and many things which are making it all the more difficult to live a happy and peaceful life.
Café Counsel is totally bootstrapped organization; although they are actively seeking funding through various investors. They have been shortlisted, in the past, for three accelerator programs but they turned them down, as according to Lakshmi, “More than funds, it’s important that we have the right investor who understands our vision and passion. We are optimistic that we should be able to find the right funding partnership.”
Café Counsel is fully functional, with over 350+ users and is also witnessing early stage revenues. They launched their beta platform in April this year, and have started seeing early adopters since mid-June.
She concludes her interview with Ken Folios, saying, “I see today most social issues are because people do not want to share resources, times, money, food, knowledge etc. There’s enough and plenty for everyone; the problem here is our narrow mind-set. I think I realised and accepted that one cannot be on both sides of the fence; you can either be on the problem side or the solution side. I chose the Solution. Ultimately the choice is ours! Lastly, for people who are suffering from any kind of psychological issues, please SPEAK UP, and seek HELP. There’s no shame, harm in it. Asking for help is a sign of Courage.”