Mental health is the little things that happen to us, not just words like anxiety & depression: Divija Bhasin

Sneha Medda
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Divija Bhasin

Divija Bhasin gives insights into how digital media has changed when it comes to portraying mental health, the grey areas of being a ‘female content creator’ and more, in a brief conversation with Social Samosa.

The digital era has massively helped India overcome its prejudice around mental health and words like therapy and psychologists. A big factor that broke these taboos is mental health influencers. One such person is Divija Bhasin, widely known as @awkwardgoat3 on the internet. 

Divija, a digital creator, therapist, and business owner, uses her platform to bust myths about mental health, educate the audience about their own psyche and has created a safe space which provides therapy as well. Her content often revolves around relatable scenarios that are wrapped in humour, sarcasm, and creativity. 

With social media embracing mental health, brands have started to open up to this idea as well. On many occasions, Divija has collaborated with brands like Nykaawellness, Kotex India, and more. 

In conversation with Social Samosa, Divija Bhasin talks about how she started her journey, the way she uses her platform to drive awareness about mental health and upliftment of other women and more. 

Also Read: Women in Marketing: Executives who are building brand narratives

Edited Excerpts:

Can you tell me about your journey and how you started off in the digital space?

I started making videos on TikTok during the lockdown. I was completing my second Master’s in Clinical Psychology at that time. Once the app was banned, I truly realized how much making content means to me because of how upset the ban made me. I started making reels on Instagram and came to the realisation that I can actually reach millions of people and spread mental health awareness online. Now, I am also able to help hundreds of clients in therapy with my team of therapists at The Friendly Couch.

Being on social media I am able to combine three things I truly believe in - using creativity + talking about mental health + providing therapy.

What is a sexist narrative that the digital industry desperately needs to change?

I think one sexist narrative that exists in the digital space is that women who “dress up” or “put on makeup” are “dumb”. I have often received hate comments because I like putting colourful eyeshadow. People (often men) seem to not take me seriously and question my qualifications because I look “feminine”. I have also noticed a lot of bullying and negativity in the comment sections of fashion influencers who identify as women. I think women should be able to express themselves the way they want without being questioned just because they choose to spend time on how they look. Men are never questioned on why they worked out to get six-pack abs. They are applauded.

How has your content enabled you to grow as a creator and empower the new generation to talk about mental health freely?

I started off by making random light-hearted videos at first with a touch of mental health. I have grown a lot in sensing what works for my audience and helps them understand better. I have come to realize that mental health awareness doesn’t take place just by talking about symptoms of disorders and tips on how to overcome anxiety. Mental health conversations need to be much deeper and need to include our societal problems because they are one of the key reasons behind low well-being. The new generation has been very perceptive to such videos and indirectly influenced me into defining mental health for myself. I no longer go by what was taught to me in my textbooks. The definition of mental health was very limiting there. Mental health is the little things that happen to us in our day-to-day life and it is not just words like anxiety and depression. It is what happens behind anxiety and depression.

What gender-based challenges have you faced as a content creator and how have you overcome them?

I get questioned a lot by men when I try to bring up men’s mental health. I get derogatory condescending comments about how men should just go to the gym. And when I don’t include men’s issues, I get hate for being a “feminazi”. There is no winning in this situation. Every time I try to bring up women’s issues, I get feedback from men that I am overthinking/always complaining/making a big issue out of nothing. I think this has a lot to do with how our society has always silenced women for talking about their problems or just having opinions in general.

How do brands associate with mental health and how has your experience with brands been so far?

Most brands still have a long way to go when it comes to mental health. While some of them let me be the expert to decide what type of mental health-related content I should put up in association with them, some of them are just performative. They do it as a “chore” and try to coerce me into making oversimplified content in the name of mental health that would not really make any change or bring awareness.

I am, however, still very happy to see brands at least THINKING about mental health for their campaigns. Even performative activism is good enough as we are still at the stage where people don’t talk about mental health. Although I do understand why they are doing it and do not understand the depth of mental health - there is so much stigma that we cannot expect everyone to get it right.

Do you think the conversation around mental health in ads has evolved? How can brands better their communication?

Earlier, it was rare to see brands talking about mental health so the conversation has definitely evolved to include it. They can better their communication by using the mental health narrative as the main content rather than trying to use it to sell their products. If the product is just an integration in the middle of an ethical storyline around mental health conversations, it is better rather than trying to sell “solutions” to mental health problems using unrelated products. I have definitely seen some brands get this right so it is possible. Just requires more effort and reflection in the initial stages of script writing.

Many times women on social media are put into gender-specific categories and not appreciated when they create content that is 'traditionally made for men'. This can especially be seen in the content creation industry. Do you think this has changed in recent years? If not how can this narrative be changed?

Yes, definitely. It is changing. An important example would be finance-related content. I see so many women on social media who make finance-related content now and gain popularity because of it. It is refreshing to see women talk about a topic that was previously male-dominated. I think the more women that take the effort to go “against” the norm, the more it’ll be accepted. Edutational content (education + entertainment) is definitely a category that will benefit from more women making such content to normalize it.

How do you think influencers can use their platform to educate women and uplift them?

I think all influencers should sometimes portray the daily life problems they face or see women face in the content they make. This can be easily adjusted to making it funny or lighthearted if that’s what their niche is. Thankfully, I see many female creators doing this already because it seems to come naturally to them.

Entertainment is probably the biggest influential factor that can actually change people’s perceptions (consciously and unconsciously).

A woman who positively impacted your life/career and why?

My mother. She has been very open-minded in her parenting and let me peruse a career most parents would discourage their children to take up. Even apart from my career, she has been extremely supportive and I do not think I would be the person I am without her guidance.

How are you using your platform to empower women?

I use my content to first give validation to women about the problems they face. I want them to understand that their problems are not trivial as the society makes them believe. And that they are not alone. They are powerful. I also make videos in which I show female characters having opinions and not being afraid to stand up for themselves. Further, I try to show double standards in the society between expectations from men vs women to shed light on subtle sexism we tend to ignore in our daily life.

What kind of content can be expected from you in the coming year?

I hope to touch upon more sensitive topics that not many people talk about and hope to make more people question subtle problems in our society that we usually ignore. I will always try to keep my content as a mix of lighthearted yet meaningful so people enjoy while learning!

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