LonePack Conversations – Indu Gopalakrishnan & Project Kintsugi

Talking about mental health and creating awareness surrounding mental health issues is an arduous task that cannot be done in a day. We all know that the waves of change, of any kind, take a while to reach the shore, and the amount of effort to sustain the wave is plenty. The only way to achieve that is by work together, as a community. LonePack conversations is one such initiative where we reach out to other people in the mental health community to gain their insights and experiences with working in the field. And the first-ever edition of LonePack conversations starts out with Indu Gopalakrishnan. Indu is the founder of Project Kintsugi–an initiative taken to form a safe space for women to talk, to form a community of supporters who will have your back during times of distress. Read along to get to know about Indu and Project Kintsugi and how during times of need, people become our greatest strength. 

1. First off, what personally prompted you to start thinking about mental health and shatter the stigma surrounding mental health issues?

Indu: There is still a lack of awareness surrounding mental health and many people still go through hard times battling mental health issues alone. The more you speak about it, the easier it gets to identify problems and in turn, helps people get the support that they need the most instead of suffering in silence. It’s pacifying when someone identifies the nameless demon that’s inside them—the reason for the suffering that they are undergoing.

Be it childhood trauma or complex anxiety issues that I or someone I know go through, it’s comforting only when someone takes the initiative to categorize and label all the issues and problems under a bucket. And, that’s exactly what made me pick up the thread and voice out for mental health. My whole motive was to find the people (as well as being one) who can support each other, connect the dots for recovery, and spread positivity around.

 2. We now see that mental health is slowly garnering interest among people with its steady inclusion in social media. But, even with all the growing limelight, do you, in some way, think that society still doesn’t understand the actual issues relating to mental health and the sensitivity around it? How much awareness do you think people really have when it comes to mental health issues?  

Indu: Building awareness is a slow process. You may not see the results immediately but the more we talk about it, we build more consciousness around the topic and the consciousness and curiosity slowly build awareness. This is similar to how awareness initiatives around saving water and being eco-friendly work. We may not follow it immediately but it happens over a period of time.

Likewise, with mental health, attention and action set in gradually. So, each time you write or read about anxiety, trauma or panic attacks, it leaves a lingering thought in you, making you understand the underlying importance. Not instantly impactful, but with time, it will truly make a difference. 

 3. Does every level of distress require therapy? What do you think would be the need of the hour for mental health?

Indu: Like how people have annual health check-ups, I believe that every individual should have at least one round of therapy. It helps you put things in perspective. In the society we live in, most of them still consider therapy to be a taboo, however, on the contrary, therapists help you find your own voice—your own ways to appreciate yourself. There is so much negativity around the word self-care as being selfish, but putting yourself and your emotions first will help you become more self-aware and a better person.

4. Moving on to your own work, Project Kintsugi—lovely name! How did this project come into place and what does it signify? 

Indu: Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi (“golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. 

When I was going through my heartbreak a friend once sent me this. In this context, Kintsugi is about embracing the wound/damage and creating something strong and beautiful out of it. And, that’s how Project Kintsugi was born—to embrace and empower distressed women, making them believe in their own strengths. 

5. What would the project’s goals be and what challenges did you have to face when you started the project and how did you work to overcome them?

Indu: The vision of Project Kintsugi is to build a community of supporting and non-judgemental women who stand up for each other during unforeseen times. It’s not about me as a person running the whole show—rather, I see it as a collective effort. The project will continue to run independently, so even if it’s just 10 people today, they will form a chain of trust and grow the community that helps one another. 

The biggest challenge I faced, and still sometimes do, is being available always! I currently juggle between a full-time day career and my pet project. While I don’t want to claim the reasons for my unavailability, it’s important to understand that Kintsugi isn’t a one-time work—it’s not about passing information or suggesting some details. It’s about listening to each other, reflecting on stories, and supporting women with possible legal and moral help. So, yes, it’s a Herculean task on my plate, but I love doing it!

6. What kind of support do you offer and how do you think it impacts your target audience?

Indu: Kintsugi meetups function on an anonymous setup—we’re not judgemental about who you are and what you do—but, our major motive is why you’re here and how we can help you. Women who go through troubled marriages, harassment, and domestic violence, can take these meetups to be a solace, wherein they can talk about what they’re going through. 

We encourage people not to come up with any solution immediately or offer any opinions, but the whole idea is to provide a medium for women to vent out, address their issues, network with other women going through similar experiences, and get legal or professional contacts/help for the betterment of their situation.

7.Women, divorce, domestic violence and depression—any clichéd sayings and experiences that you had to encounter that tried to relate these three? How did you handle it?

Indu: Ah! That’s something unsaid and clichéd in this society. You can almost read it in everyone’s faces—what questions they’ll ask, what opinions they hold, and what rumours they’re ready to speak around.

The truth is depression or domestic violence can happen to anyone. I wasn’t brave enough initially to handle these and was waiting for a change to happen. But, soon, I realized that I deserved something better than just the blame I put on myself for unfortunate happenings. 

What really helped me handle and put things into perspective was my ability to connect with others. I help myself by helping others around, and as I said earlier, it’s a chain reaction and you’ll find people returning the same help around. 

8. What’s the best part of your work that concerns mental health?

Indu: Creating a community and bringing people together to share their stories. People end up relating to each other’s problems and finding their kinship with each other. That’s the best part of my project and my life—standing up for each other and making women feel good. 

9. Vulnerability is important when it comes to dealing with mental health issues and talking about them. What would be your two cents for those who struggle with that kind of open vulnerability?

Indu: In my opinion, vulnerability is important—it doesn’t make you weak or put you to shame. In fact, it’s okay to wear vulnerability on your sleeve. As long as you have supporting souls who can relate to the problem you’re going through and help you handle it better, you’re good to go. With Project Kintsugi, that’s what we hope to create, helping people bond better. 

10. And lastly, in this society, what is your idea of a collaborative community that has to come together to raise awareness about mental health issues?

Indu: My idea of a collaborative community is the one where people come together to create an impact in someone’s life. They form a ripple effect, spreading positivity around, just as you see in those cute happy-note-passing videos. The running philosophy is just the simple fact that if we do good to someone, that someone will do good to a few more, and those few will pass this good deed on. Together, we can weave miracles! 

We at LonePack, sincerely thank Indu for all the insights she has shared! It was lovely having her talk to us about Project Kintsugi and everything behind it. We definitely feel many around would find your words helpful and supportive. 

Battle with my body

“I want to be more fit, maybe a little taller” blurts my friend as he looks at a larger than life poster of a model on the side of the highway. Earlier in the day at a restaurant, he orders a salad for lunch and leaves the croutons untouched. He casually says he’s not hungry. He’d skipped breakfast that morning. He exercises every day and looks well-built to me but to him, it’s a different story. 

My friend is not alone in his struggle with body image. Memories of myself going on diets, trying to lose weight are still fresh but his obsession with weight loss and attaining the perfect figure are a little concerning. However, to the unsuspecting, his behaviour seems nothing out of the ordinary. It has become commonplace to find youth today constantly trying to perfect the way they look and obsession is only ever subjective.

Constantly discussed yet unspoken; Fad diets, intermittent fasting and Juice cleanses; Myriad labels – 0%, 2% and Whole, calorie count tables and Organic – This is the world we live in. A million blogs and videos detailing unbelievable weight loss journeys are available at the click of a button. Celebrities and commoners alike hop on Instagram to post photos of their flawless bodies, hoping to inspire their followers. Can I say “TMI”?

Now, more than ever before, we have greater access to information on how food affects our bodies and deeper insights into weight loss routines but we still understand so little. So much of the information that we encounter on a daily basis is neither scientifically corroborated nor applicable to our bodies. It is impossible to avoid this constant stream of statistics and data, and being as human as we are, ill-informed decisions are made.  

It is only a year later that I found out that my friend has been diagnosed with clinical anorexia. Our mutual friends were shocked, after all, he seemed to be a role model for healthy living. I suspect that it’s this constant adoration that might’ve pushed him to maintain a dangerous diet even when his body told him otherwise. In fact, a study shows that 81 per cent of ten-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat. At an age when their bodies are still not fully developed and need nutrition, children and teens alike are starving themselves.

Traditional media does little to help. Though there has been a spike in the recent trend of being authentic and more and more influencers share their struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, these voices are few and far in-between among the general commotion of weight loss gurus. Models to mannequins, everyday imagery promotes a thin, fair-skinned and Western as beautiful for women, while tall, muscular and Western again are the qualities of the masculine handsomeness. It is almost impossible to ignore these constant reminders that our own bodies are inadequate.

“I stopped going on social media”, tells my friend. “I deleted all my accounts and the tracker apps on my phone. That has helped me a great deal”. He also tells me that his general mood has improved ever since he’s been eating healthily and his emotional stability and mental acuity have been boosted as well. I am happy that he found the courage in himself to break out of the vicious cycle but not everyone is as emotionally strong. It is estimated that around 30 million are diagnosed with eating disorders in the US; that number is a staggering 25% of young girls in India and this trend only seems to be growing. 

Health and dietary science has made quantum leaps in recent decades but we are still far from understanding the complete picture. While we must be well-informed of our options, the greatest tool in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, is the feedback we receive from our own bodies. It is important to consult a certified doctor before going on diets and even then to remember not to set impossible goals for yourself which in turn might only become another source of stress.

Here are some tips to battle your body image issues [WellCast].

  1. Stop, Breathe
  2. Look inward and look to your own inspiration
  3. Don’t sacrifice future health for current figure
  4. Don’t keep moving goal posts back. Don’t set unattainable goals.
  5. Talk It Out
  6. Step away from the mirror


[Photo courtesy: Alora Griffiths on Unsplash]

Threads of a Noose

TRIGGER WARNING: Talks about teen suicide

If a picture speaks a thousand words,

Then, a million spoke the one I held.

Through shattered glass in battered frame,

Crystal to me, to others misspelled.

‘Mom!’, you say in exasperation,

For the hundredth time I compelled.




Perhaps, I was too hard, suffocating,

Like all fathers but father no more…

But I thought I was giving you space,

To grow, find your feet, to soar.

I should have been there for you,

Should have knocked down that door.




My face ashen, 

my fingers blue,

My knees are jelly,

I held onto you.

But they say, you’re no more,

Tell it ain’t true.




Gather them, minutes slipped by,

Herd them to slaughter,

To where I am headed too.

Perhaps, I’ll go before, or after.

Details, perilous details, 

Not too long, no matter.



Most people believe that children are not suicidal or get depressed. The above poem is inspired by the documentary, “Boy Interrupted” which solemnly captures the facts contrary to this belief. Here is the short description,

Evan Scott Perry received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder when he was a preteen, and in 2005, committed suicide at the age of 15. There was a family history of mental illness; his Uncle Scott had killed himself at 22 in 1971. Evan had first exhibited suicidal tendencies when he was only 5. Directed by his mother, filmmaker Dana Heinz Perry, the film traces Evan’s growing mental illness, including videotapes made throughout his short life and interviews with his friends and doctors.

The documentary captures the raw emotion that each of the family members went through. The inevitability of Evan’s suicide is apparent, yet we find ourselves rooting for him, just as his friends and family set their belief in his recovery. 

At one point, even the doctor is amazed at how Evan had built up the facade of sanity that concealed his ulterior motive of taking his life. This is an important example of how teens today have high functioning depression and often hide or even lie to close ones in the belief that they wouldn’t understand. 

Towards the end, it is impossible not to tear up along with Nicholas, Evan’s half-brother, who laments on not having had the chance to talk Evan out of attempting suicide. ‘It gets better’. That’s the truth. That’s all Nicholas wanted to say.  

The movie, a little over an hour and a half is a must watch and is available on YouTube. 


Of Courage and Cowardice

Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide and self harm

 “I’m sorry that I’m such a coward.”  

It was a WhatsApp text from a very close friend that I’m not sure was really meant to be sent, because it got deleted in a few seconds.  I was just about to question the meaning behind it, when the bell ringing distracted me. Quickly throwing my phone inside my bag, I rushed to the front bench, as a proper student would do, and forgot all about the message. 

That was two years back.

Fast forward to two days back, and I was sitting there, tears streaming down my cheeks, stuffing my face with popcorn, watching ‘A Star Is Born’.  

*Spoiler Alert*

To those of you who haven’t watched it, A Star Is Born is a musical romantic drama movie about a famous singer battling alcohol addiction (Bradley Cooper) and a young woman who also aspires to be a musician (Lady Gaga). Long story short, they fall in love, marry, and she achieves her dreams at the cost of his life. 

That’s right. Jack (Cooper) commits suicide at the end of the film, which gives Ally (Lady Gaga) the tearful motivation to pursue her ambition. 

At the end of the movie, Ally is (understandably) guilt-stricken, and feels that she is to blame for his death. 

*End of Spoiler*

I felt that it was like Beauty and the Beast with an alternate ending, what with the gradual falling in love, learning about each other, secrets kept, and all that, but the movie did get in a few points in it’s favour. Like the songs, for example. 

Though I felt that Lady Gaga’s voice didn’t really go with some of the lyrics; that she could not convey the depth of the lyrics, the soundtrack was very good, so kudos to Cooper and her. 

If asked for a review, I would give the movie a 3.0/5.0 and declare it as worth a one-time watch, just for Bradley Cooper’s charm. But we’re here to discuss more than that. 

Let’s go back to when I was 19 and naive.

Two months after that deleted WhatsApp message, I almost lost my friend to a bicycle accident, as we had everyone believe. 

My friend was rubbish at lying when it came to me, so I  managed to coax out the truth. My friend had decided to die that day, getting on a bicycle and riding down a busy road with closed eyes. 

“I’m so sorry.” Were the first words my friend said to me. 

Next came the words I had read two months prior; ‘I’m sorry that I’m such a coward.”

I found that I disagreed at that point, once I had gotten over my initial anger and shock.

I’ve always felt that suicide requires a certain amount of courage. The courage to leave your loved ones behind, the courage to give up all your hopes and dreams, and the courage to look past the potential consequences of your actions.  It is quite obvious then, that the people left behind, your near and dear ones, should require an even greater amount of courage. It is they who have to deal with the consequences of your actions, who have to choose to go on without you in their lives, and most importantly, they who should absolve themselves of blame and guilt.

One way in which you can alleviate your guilt is by identifying someone else who is going through a rough phase and helping them get over it.

Here is what you can do if you know someone who might need help:

  1. Notice the signs: Another thing that ‘A Star is Born’ got right was the signs of depression that Jack pulled off quite well. The addiction, the mood swings, the fits of anger, and the deep sorrow are all things that people suffering from depression often exhibit. Severe depression also reflects itself on the physical attributes of a person, like fatigue and insomnia. If you also notice one of these signs and see someone giving away their possessions or speaking with a sense of finality, chances are that they are about to take a bad decision.
  2. Speak out:  Most of those suffering from guilt, like Ally, think that maybe if they had shown enough love, it wouldn’t have happened. I used to think that, too, in the days following that incident. That’s a wrong notion, I realized, because depression is a sickness, and suicide is a decision that very sick people take. We are not all doctors, and we cannot all have cured them. Love or affection couldn’t have just changed Jack’s mind, as Bobby (Sam Elliot) tells Ally at the end of the movie.
    But if you identify someone else with depression, you can take that first step; you can talk to that person. Tell them that everything will be okay; provide constant encouragement. 
  3. Never give up:  You can convince yourself into thinking that if only you had given that smile, if only you had said those words, your loved one would have been there with you. The list of ‘If-only’ is endless, and every one of them will seem true to you at the moment of guilt. But they’re all impossible because unfortunately, every known piece of Time-Turners was smashed during the fight at the Ministry of Magic.
    On a more serious note, you can help the next person. You can help by never giving upon them. no matter how difficult that person is being, no matter how hopeless they seem. Keep talking to them; make them realize that you’re there for them. In most instances, the person would need professional help, so support them while they take that step.

The answer to the most commonly asked question, ‘What could I have done differently?’ is this: nothing. But the question, ‘What can I do now?’ has a more positive answer.

What is it that C. S. Lewis said? “You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

So reach out to those who need help; especially those who do not ask for it. 

Teach them to dance in the rain and count stars in the dark.  

Show them that self-love is the first step towards living a happy life. 

After all, as a wise man once said, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.”

-Pooja Krishna H A

A Look into Copycat Suicides

Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide and Self-harm

We might have probably heard of the word ‘copycat’ for the first time in the playground. This childish word being associated with a deathly term ‘suicide’ calls for a serious understanding. To briefly explain, A person is said to attempt copycat suicide if he is influenced by the same method of suicide as a famous star/celebrity. 

Many cases of suicides could’ve been prevented with the right kind of support offered at the right time. But several psychological factors like stress or peer pressure lead people to take decisions that lead to self-harm. In addition, when a person reads about suicidal news glorified by the media, it is likely to trigger suicidal thoughts in his mind at their lowest moments. Studies suggest that the rate of suicides has increased whenever a celebrity has committed suicide.

An example of this phenomenon is that of Marilyn Monroe, who died by suicide in 1962 and the suicide attempt rate increased by 12 per cent. But in the case of the Nirvana lead singer, Kurt Cobain in 1994, the media made an effort for a restricting report and it saw a decrease in the rate and increase in the helpline calls. Another case was in 2014 when the Oscar-winning star of “Good Morning, Vietnam”, Robert Williams, died of asphyxia (suffocation) after hanging himself at his home. Following this, it was found that there was a 32 per cent increase in the number of deaths from suffocation and a doubling in the number of calls received by the suicide prevention lifeline. The research also suggested that this was mainly because media amplified the news by providing even the smallest of details. A very recent example is of the controversial Netflix series ’13 reasons why’. An analysis of internet search said that in the 19 days after the series got aired in 2017, the search for the term ‘suicide’ rose by 20 per cent. 

It is very important to understand how a person’s attitude can change after a famous star’s death. they may start considering it to be a way out of all his problems and It is unfortunate that media doesn’t take enough care to report the news with delicacy and explicit warnings. Media is one of the most powerful weapons of democracy and it also has the power to influence imitation suicides, if it doesn’t follow the laid guidelines to report suicidal news. It shouldn’t be exaggerating their deaths. It is also on our part to not get moved by such news and call the suicide prevention lifeline even if we have the slightest idea to do so. There is surely a way out of every problem. Depression is a fight that can be won with the right support and self-belief. with determination and will power. Life is full of obstacles, but no such obstacle has the power to end life. Even if we don’t get what we deserve, we must learn to stand alone and fight it out, instead of harming ourselves. Do reach out for help, there is nothing more important than your mental well-being. 


Exploring Media and Mental Health

The world can seem to be really cruel sometimes. Nothing might go your way and the things and circumstances that we experience might make us believe that nothing good will ever cross our paths again. Discussing openly about the demons that we fight takes a lot of courage and vulnerability and it is a hard thing to do. However, sharing the pain would ultimately sought to only do more good to us. Awareness about various mental health issues is also a need of the hour and a key aspect of exploring mental health issues and its reach is through media. There is absolutely no doubt that media has the biggest influence and reach today. Everything from entertainment to information is at the click of a button and with it comes the problem of regulation. With regards to mental health issues, there is a slow rise in shows and movies that explore them yet there is always the question of if they are being portrayed the right way. A lot of thought and delicacy has to be put into making these shows and movies that will ultimately be shown to a large audience. Responsibility must be taken by those who write the script so that the issues sought to break the taboo of talking about mental health and breaking the stigma surrounding it rather than just using them as a commercial marketing gimmick. So this week leading up to the Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, we hope to explore some of the aspects of modern pop culture that have portrayed mental health issues. Some of the content might contain Trigger Warnings so please be aware of them. Do take the time to read through them and let us know of your own thoughts on how and if modern pop culture does its job of dealing with mental health issues well.