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Crowdfunding For Mental Health

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Crowdfunding in India, as of the end of 2017, is not exactly selling like hot cakes, but is marching steadily uphill toward a peak where American crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been settled in some comfort, both in financial terms and in the matter of the crowd’s acceptance of this method of fundraising. Since new age crowdfunding is done entirely online, with a campaigner creating a fundraiser page with their story, photos, a video, and supporting documents making concrete why they are raising funds, India has lagged a little, but with internet penetration and social media activity increasing among the young population, even in rural areas, we are fast catching up with western nations’ achievements as donors pool funds of many donors (with each donation made online through a secure payment gateway) for a single cause.

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Observation of prominent Indian crowdfunding ventures seem to bear out a few patterns in the behaviors of those who make donations in India. Aside from the fact that women donate more often than men, it appears that the large Indian middle-class donates the most frequently, and often put in substantial sums of money into campaigns they can relate to. This last is strongly characteristic of the Indian donor, with more funds pouring into education, women’s rights, and healthcare projects than any other, and with donors connecting emotionally to these stories of people who struggle to survive on scanty social and cultural resources. Empathy makes them give, and the hope that their donation will make change (it always does).

Sadly, this empathy donors have for people struggling with poor health does not extend to those who suffer from mental illnesses. There is still a veritable mountain of social stigma against those with mental illness, be it depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or an obsessive compulsive disorder, no matter whether they can push this claim to victimhood aside and function as socially useful individuals, or are completely crippled and house bound or even institutionalized by the physical and psychological symptoms manifested by these issues. Mentally ill people have historically been cast aside or shut up in confined spaces so as not to stand out as offensive markers that all is not well with society itself, because it has allowed such conditions to breed.

The sight of, and interaction with, people who struggle with good mental health is disturbing and unsettling to those who do not have to fight to get out of bed in the mornings, keep up a self care routine, or plan and eat healthy meals. It is easier for the more fortunate to sweep the whole discourse of mental health hazards under the proverbial rug. If the problem is invisibilized, one can look away and pretend for a while that it doesn’t exist. This way of approaching mental health, with even biological medical practitioners and behavioral and positivist therapists focused on addressing symptoms of bad mental health rather than make a sociocultural effort to remodel structures of oppression that are bringing these onslaughts on to the minds of thousands, will not change in our lifetimes. What we can do is to work to build awareness about why and how mental health-related problems affect the lives of those who have them, and to change public perception about depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, aiming for social inclusion of patients and designing schemes for their rehabilitation so they can make contributions to their communities. Legal reform to empower those with mental illness will also help this cause move forward speedily.

For projects of any scale that focuses on securing constitutional rights for mentally ill individuals, or for the upholding of these rights, as well as campaigns to raise funds for rehabilitation initiatives (especially for those patients from poorer, marginalized and rural backgrounds), crowdfunding can be a major tool. We are a society with regressive values surrounding mental health disorders, which need to change, and so the stories of those who battle paralysing depression or memories of trauma, or even higher than average levels of anxiety coloring their rational visions, will serve to alter the perspectives of those who are blessed with good mental health. The donor body of India will realize then that mental disorders have debilitating powers and can happen to anyone, and will come forward to help with funds and make change as a collective.

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