Awareness on mental health Society

Dancer Anita Peter’s short films aim to break the stigma around mental health

Anita Peter   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Anita Peter is not just a Mohiniyattam dancer, biker and actor. She is also a flag bearer for people suffering from mental health issues. “Because I have lived it and been through it,” she says.

Anita suffered from clinical depression thrice at different phases of her life. “I was not aware of the term during my first tryst with it in 2004. It was taboo to talk about it in my second phase in 2011. Although the stigma persisted in my third phase in 2018, there was some awareness,” she adds.

Based on the book

The Hyderabad-based dancer underwent two years of therapy and now that she has recovered wants to help break the stigma with her three short films on mental health issues. Founder of Lasya Drutha, a centre for performing and fine arts foundation in Telangana, Anita is also a motivational speaker and biker who was part of a Kashmir to Kanyakumari road trip. The recently launched films are based on and titled after her book To Win Your Battles STAY ALIVE, which will be launched in October.

A still from the short film

A still from the short film   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Conceptualised and written by Anita, the short films launched online in English (the team is working on subtitles in Telugu, Kannada and Hindi) are available on YouTube and on the websites of MacGuffin film channel and Lasya Drutha Foundation. The three films share the same title, however, they present three different perspectives. Anita says the response has been positive. “A few individuals have shared it on their social media pages and in webinars to discuss the key points,” she adds.

Directed by Hyderabad-based independent filmmaker Anshul Sinha, the first two films of 10-and-four-minutes each are realistic portrayals; the first deals with the need to open up and the second is about panic attacks.

Overcoming fear

The four-minute third film depicts the trauma a man goes through after ending his life; he assumes his death does not make any difference to his parents, but gets a chance to rethink. Urging people to be courageous and sensible, Anita says, “The films show a ray of hope and the need to stay alive.”

A still from theshort film

A still from theshort film   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Besides Anita, the actors include her daughter Neha Peter and theatre actor Sumit Keshri. With a background in theatre and films, Anita says “I wanted these stories to reach people in a visual form so that the images create a spark and food for thought. Men and women who suffer in silence will identify with the stories. It is normal to have these feelings but the choice — to continue to suffer or come out of it, lies with us,” she says.

Anita began writing the book in her recovery period. During her visits to the doctor, she says she saw patients accompanied by their parents, who were hesitant to talk about their challenges. “Some fear the side-effects of anti-depressants and some even stop medication mid-way because they feel everything is fine. Why this phobia for medicines prescribed by a doctor and why associate stigma to something that is part of us,” she asks, adding “Seek help and open up.”

(Those who require assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts may contact the suicide prevention helpline of NGOs such as Sneha 044-24640050; Vandrevala Foundation 18602662345; and Roshni 040-66202000)

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 12:21:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/dancer-anita-peters-three-short-films-aim-to-break-the-stigma-around-mental-health/article32660110.ece

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