Circle of Caregivers: Let’s talk about mental health

Circle of Caregivers, a mental health initiative was conceptualized by Sumiho Aye in Kiphire for returnees of Kiphire district.
Circle of Caregivers, a mental health initiative was conceptualized by Sumiho Aye in Kiphire for returnees of Kiphire district.

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | September 24

While the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the mental health of everybody, returnees in Nagaland especially have had to deal with stigma and discrimination besides feeling that sense of uncertainty, fear and anxiety as they were returning home. However, for returnees of Kiphire district, a lot of mental stress in this regard was eased, thanks to “Circle of Caregivers,” a mental health initiative conceptualized by Sumiho Aye.

“Just a simple advice of saying be careful in the train” genuinely spoken had gone on to make a lot of difference in the whole returnee experience of coming home. “When they finished their quarantine, we received messages like ‘Thank you so much for your help, and for being there,” Sumiho Aye told The Morung Express. “A kind word went a long way to making them feel welcomed. I wish and I hope they got it from many places, it was a gratifying experience,” she expressed.

“I thought if we could only lend a listening ear and spare a little empathy for our returnee brothers and sisters, we could make COVID-19 less menacing and help neutralize the negative social-behavioral impacts of COVID -19 crisis in our society,” she went on to say.

With the prime objective to address mental health issues faced by the returnees and further normalize the concept of mental health in the society, her mental health initiative under the banner, “Circle of Caregivers” is a team of 23 Caregivers providing care and support over phone calls to the returnees who need care.

These Caregivers were earlier trained on care giving skills under the methodologies of Initiatives of Change, and then further trained on Mental Health by Serendip Guardians, with the purpose of understanding mental health and to equip themselves for proactive intervention in their communities. Working in collaboration with Kiphire District administration and Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK) Kiphire through the CM Corpus fund, the training partners include Serendip Guardians- an NGO working on Mental Health and Initiatives of Change (IoFC) a worldwide movement and organisation.

She also hopes to create a sense of ‘collective community’ through this initiative. Expressing that they would continue to meaningfully engage with the returnees, she said, “we also want to promote mental health in our community and advocate our slogans: ‘Let us end the Stigma of Mental health’, ‘Let us empathize more and judge less’, ‘Together, let us create a caring society’.”

Sumiho Aye, who previously studied and worked outside but came back to the village sometime in 2019, said her experience with the ‘grassroots’ was so overwhelming and felt that it was a homecoming of sorts even for her.

Even before the advent of COVID, she had wanted to do something about mental health, but more from a spiritual way.

In this regard, Grassroots Empowerment Kiphire, an NGO which she founded had been imparting training on soft skills even as she impressed upon that “mental health is basically more about realising your potentials first.”

“As we know there is no health without mental health (WHO),  let us take this Pandemic as an opportune time to pause, to reflect and nurture our minds, and others around us”, she emphasized.

Also acknowledging those who have supported the cause of mental health in Kiphire district, she expressed her profound gratitude to Sarita Yadav, DC Kiphire, Muletolu Vero - NYK coordinator, Fr Dr Joe Mariadhas - Parish Priest St. Peter's Church, Pastor Allison - President of Baptist Churches Pastors’ Union, Dr Apise - Secretary USBLA, Pastor Akai - Pastor Sumi Aizuto Church, Hekani Kiba- Youth Leader Sumi Nito Mount Church, Pastor Lemtsu Tikhir - Youth director Tikhir Church, Litongla- Counsellor, Throngso- Teacher, Capt Tanay, USSC, KTDSSU and PACSU.

Messages from Caregivers

“I am happy to be a caregiver. I choose to listen with an open heart, with no judgements.” 
-Yutsala from Amahator village

“A sound mental health creates a peaceful society. As a caregiver, I choose to seek truth and built trust.” 
- Mukamchem from Pungro

“Caregivers for Mental health is an important outreach for caring and sharing love in the community” 
- Lemtsü Tikhir from Kiphire town   

 “Knowing that mental health is equally important as our physical health, I choose to promote a courageous conversation on mental health.” 
- Hekani Kiba from Kiphire town
 “I dream of a community where we all help one another and live in harmony, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows.” 
- Ariba Yingbithongrü from Thangthure village 

“Let us break this unhealthy chain of ignorance and judgements by building trust, courage, and Love.” 
- Salin from Singrep village

“Everybody is going through a hard time during COVID-19 crisis; may we share the sufferings and overcome everything together.”
 - Kumrela from Pungro Town

“Mental health has become a serious issue because we fail to listen to each other.  As a caregiver, I choose to listen and spread hope.” 
- Ariba Anar from Seyochung village