They say that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. LonePack’s started with something much more abstract – a deep, almost desperate need to bring about change.
Oh no, we’re not talking about enacting change on a global scale, like achieving climate stability or anything, but the one we wanted to do was equally difficult to achieve with just as far-reaching an impact.
To talk about the change that we envisioned, we would need to retrace our steps a little; go back in time by a few years.
Six years ago, three youngsters; Samiya, Siddhaarth, and Naveen, engineering students who preferred to be identified first as ‘friends’ before ‘classmates’, had an idea.
“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,” recalls Samiya.
So what is the idea that we’re giving all this hype about?
“What we wanted to do was to tell people they were not alone, that their mental health mattered, as lonely as it seemed to them when they were not ok. We wanted to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage open conversation about it. To provide a safe space for people to be candid about what they were going through. This was what LonePack was about,” says Naveen.
But why mental health, when there are a million other causes to support, one might wonder. Well, Siddhaarth has the answer to that!
“My own experiences and those of my close friends have shown me how important mental health is to overall well-being and quality of life. Sadly, there is still a lot of stigma and misconceptions about mental health that prevent people from seeking help to improve their well-being. In many other social causes, mainstream society at least acknowledges that we need to improve (in principle at least). However, when it comes to mental health – there still exists a lot of prejudice that prevents people from giving it due importance. There’s a long road ahead of us to make mental health accessible to everyone and we’ll need plenty of allies and activists to reach that goal!”
And so, faced with what seemed like an unscalable mountain and armed with only their beliefs and visions for a better future, the trio started out.
Of course, part of the fun is the people you meet on your journey, and in that aspect, LonePack has seen a lot of fun, joy, and excitement over the years.
“Most of us have heard this, ‘It’s the journey that matters, not the destination’. But it’s the destination that drives you through the journey, brings you closer to people taking that journey and makes it all more worth it. At LonePack, I found a community traveling towards the same destination – to make mental health accessible to all. And taking this journey with people who are as equally, if not more, passionate as you to reach this destination, just makes it worthier to travel on.” Divya, who heads the Research team, reinstates with a smile.
“LonePack has been a space where you feel like you belong. You eventually learn and accept that it’s okay to not be okay and start to believe in the importance of being there for people. It’s amazing to be working together as a team, with folks who believe that mental health matters, and it’s been such an enjoyable ride!” says Aishwarya.
“It’s all about the collective effort; the effort that goes into pushing for better awareness, with the thirst to want to improve the perception of mental health in our circles. And since it’s a collective, there is a vibrant collaboration, and as a result you end up meeting super cool and smart people along the way. I see it as a win-win!” Suhas adds.
Aishwarya and Suhas head the Marketing and Social Media Management teams at LonePack.
“LonePack is the fruition of a deep want for change. To be the lighthouse that we didn’t really have to help guide us through the rough waves at sea. Life is kind of like the ocean and sometimes, lighthouses are what you need to know that this rough journey will end and that the shore is nearer than you think it is. LonePack is our hope – reaching out to help anyone who might need it. And to me, personally, LonePack is about building a strong community to be there for everyone as their support system. That’s why I do what I do here.” quips Srivasupradha. She heads LonePack’s Content team.
As they say, it is not the destination that matters, and LonePack has seen a lot of interesting pit-stops and milestones, too!
“We designed LonePack Buddy – a safe space for everyone to talk about anything, without fear of judgement. After all, we think everybody could use a buddy, especially in these trying times.” says Siddhaarth, talking about LonePack Buddy, which is a free, online peer-support system. Try it out here!
“Our flagship on-ground awareness campaign, LonePack Letters, reached over 60,000 people in over 20 Indian cities in 18 months across three editions,” Samiya recounts with pride. Various organizations and institutions like Uber, IIT Madras, VIT Chennai, etc have collaborated with LonePack to make the Letters campaign a success. Read more about it here!
And that is not all! From its highly informative blog page to the extremely colourful and engaging social media accounts, LonePack has a lot of gears churning (quite smoothly) on all ends!
When asked what are LonePack’s hopes and dreams for the future, Naveen says with a fond smile, “We hope to reach a lot more people to create awareness and support. We hope to grow Buddy to serve each and every person who needs help, make Buddy available in a variety of languages, and on even basic-feature phones. We hope to hasten the creation of a world where battles against mental health are no longer fought in the dark!”