Why an Engineering Student is Paying People to Talk to Him on the Streets of Pune

Mental health depression help

After experiencing heightened anxiety and isolation amid the lockdown, Raj Dagwar from Pune has embarked upon a mission to challenge the stigma around mental health

Every evening between 6 pm and 11 pm, Raj Dagwar walks on the streets of Fergusson College road. Unlike other visitors of this hotspot in Pune, the 23-year-old engineering student roams around with a placard in his hand, looking for people who will talk to him.

The placard exists for no advertisements or promotion. Instead, it says, “Tell me your story, and I will give you Rs 10”. The idea, he says, is to encourage people to talk about what burdens them, to open up about mental health, in order to break the stigma.

The initiative was born when Raj underwent a mental health crisis during the lockdown. After facing problems in his relationship, the combined anxiety and feelings of isolation skyrocketed. When he visited a psychiatrist to address his concerns, his friends mocked and teased him, he says.

Today, Raj roams the streets of Pune to break this very stigma. He hears hundreds of people vent, cry, and express themselves without feeling judged.

Watch this video to see how Raj is encouraging people to pause and listen to the problems surrounding mental health:

Edited by Divya Sethu

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