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.