When bipolarindia.com was launched in 2013, it was merely a website with information to raise awareness about bipolar disorder. Gradually, the site saw conversations happening. This led to the formation of the peer support community, perhaps a first-of-its-kind in India.
In 2016, on World Bipolar Day—March 30—bipolarindia.com hosted the first national conference that saw people coming in from all parts of the country. “Our community is virtually connected 24x7 on the Telegram app,” says Vijay Nallawala, founder of bipolarindia.com. “The support that is provided is in the form of suggestions drawn from lived experience, recommendations from mental health professionals and crisis intervention.” Nallwala, 60, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 40, after struggling with depression for two-and-a-half decades.
Peer-led intervention can vary from someone from the community connecting over the phone to try and help a person in distress to a much more direct degree of intervention, says Nallawala.
“For instance, a member needed emergency hospitalisation, and our community crowdfunded almost the entire hospital bill for the month's treatment there,” he says. Peer support meets are held online and offline several times a month for its members who are based across India, he adds. The community also offers guidance on health insurance for mental illness and on how to apply for a disability certificate.
“The mere presence in the community leads to a person feeling less isolated,” says Nallawala.
Letswalktogether.org, an initiative by bipolarindia.com, is focused on providing livelihood for persons with mental health conditions.
“This platform has already attracted 30 CVs and we are in negotiations with companies that have inclusive policies,” says Nallawala. Significantly, the core team at the helm of this initiative is drawn mainly from the community.