#WhatWeNeed Spotlight Interview – Adishi Gupta

1 Can you tell us a little about yourself and the work that you do?

Ans: I grew up as a sick and recluse child, finding my anchor in writing and later in reading and nature. I was thirteen years old when I had my first suicidal ideation. Since then, I have been living with chronic, passive suicidal ideation and a host of mysterious physical illnesses. I have been in psychotherapy for more than three years now.

My work so far has largely revolved around gender, psychosocial health and kindness. I started a small initiative called Letters of Kindness in 2019, as a part of which I write letters to people and reflect on ideas of kindness and compassion in our world through my monthly newsletter, Tender Tales. I also co-run a mental health awareness and advocacy platform called Mental Health Talks India with a friend. Currently, I work as a part-time content editor at Mad in Asia Pacific. In 2021, I am starting my specialization in Social Emotional Learning at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

2. What does advocacy mean to you and what has been your approach towards advocacy?

Ans.: As someone living with a psychosocial disability, advocacy means being able to reclaim slowness, nurturance, empathy and kindness as tools for a more inclusive world.

It is of utmost importance to turn to people deeply affected by the complex systems of harm surrounding us and bear witness to their ways of resistance in everyday life. As Nora Samaran writes,

“The(se) systems of harm are all deeply interwoven, and we can learn from and listen to directly affected people who know the most about these systems of harm, who are producing theory and analysis as they organize.”

Additionally, in our resistance towards the complex systems of harm, we must hold each other through our grief and acknowledge love and compassion as our strongest forces against discrimination and violence of all kinds.

3. How do you incorporate writing and healing into your advocacy?

Ans.: My first memory of writing is from when I was ten years old. I wrote a poem about myself, my longest poem so far. In retrospect, it was a comment on my (lost/non-existent) sense of self, a desperate piecing together of what could be me. Since then, I would not say that I developed a writing habit, but I have repeatedly turned to writing whenever everything seemed to disintegrate around me. A major part of my reading and writing over the years has been about a survivor’s experiences. As people who have spent most of our lives feeling alienated and silenced, I believe it is an act of resistance to be able to tell our stories to the world, to come out of the shadows and rage at the injustices we endure(d).

4. In your opinion, how can the challenges faced by persons with psychosocial disabilities be better addressed?

Ans.: First and foremost, the paternalism and the infantilisation that persons with psychosocial disabilities face needs to be seen as the biggest challenge. The constant signalling that we don’t know what we want is disrespectful and alienating, to say the least. So it is essential to centre our voices and needs, instead of imposing a certain idea of ‘normal’ on us.

Secondly, I believe that because of the life-long trauma and alienation, it becomes difficult to acknowledge and voice our needs. So as people with psychosocial disabilities, it is important that we come together, discuss, ideate and learn to advocate for ourselves.

5. What is the one message you would give out to our members across TCI Asia Pacific?

Ans.: Since I joined TCI Asia Pacific, I have been in awe of the work other members have been doing across the region. It always fills me with hope and a lot of joy at the world we are all co-creating through our communities. So, if given a chance to speak to the entire network, I would just like to extend my gratitude to each one of you.

Adishi Gupta

Reflecting on the pointlessness of existence, Adishi can often be found hiding behind books and trees. Most of what she does is an attempt to make sense of her life as a recluse, sick and anxious person.