The Hugging Club of India (HCI) comes to town this weekend with a powerful session to address mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. An initiative by Mumbai-based advertising professional Umang Sheth, the club’s sessions provide a platform to help one express their feelings without the fear of being judged. The club was launched in Mumbai in October 2017 when one of Umang’s friends in Hyderabad committed suicide. “He was 40 and couldn’t open up about his depression and loneliness,” recalls Umang, adding he could understand the stigma surrounding the issue since he faces a similar situation with his parents.
“My mother is a schizophrenic and father has bipolar disorder; I grew up feeling very ashamed and embarrassed about my parents. There are many people like me, who are struggling and do not know how to handle it.” He chose the name Hugging Club as, “I love to hug people; it is therapeutic.”
Besides Mumbai and Hyderabad, HCI has its presence in Delhi as well. “The idea is to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. We want to convey that the person’s character is not flawed, it is a mental disorder. Instead of fighting with the person, one has to fight with the illness.”
Every month HCI has two meetings — in one, they help people to talk about their issues and in the other they have health care experts such as a psychiatrist or a counsellor participate. “People often hesitate to visit a counsellor, so an expert visiting them helps them to connect better.”
Dr G Prasada Rao, director of Aasha Hospital will be conducting this session and the topic is ‘Open your mind and change your mindset on mental illness.’
Hugging Club of India – Meet up will be held at Phoenix Arena on May 19 from 5 pm.