Ronit Ranjan, a 23-year-old life coach from Ranchi spent five months of the pandemic walking across the country.
Along the way, he had conversations with people from different walks of life about a common concern - mental health.
Since childhood, Ronit's dream had been to serve in the army. Soon after, he took the first step towards his dream by enrolling in the National Defence Academy. However, fate had something else in store for him. A permanent spinal cord injury had shattered his dream and he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His depression made him realize the importance of mental health.
The Covid -19 lockdown deteriorated the mental health of people. He found that every hour one student died in India because of suicide.
Hence, he decided to write to the Ministry of Education for incorporating a non-graded mandatory mental health curriculum in school for standard 9 - 12.
"The curriculum is not about adding more syllabus, but rather educating and sensitizing the students through dialogues, discussions, activities, feedbacks, exercises, skill training, etc," says Ronit while talking to The Logical Indian.
However, he found that his online campaign didn't echo with the majority of people in the country.
On 16 November 2020, Ronit hit the roads to walk from KanyaKumari to Kashmir to spread awareness on the importance of mental health.
Every morning, he would start at 4:30 AM and walk until afternoon covering at least 40 Kms a day. He held sessions with schools and local groups on the topic. Along the way, he met the political and administrative authorities to explain the gravity of the issue.
With Covid-19 guidelines being issued differently in the states, he had to consistently alter his plans. To keep safe, he tested himself as he progressed to the next state.
"If the cause is important to you, you will always figure out a way," Ronit told The Logical Indian on overcoming his difficulties endured on the road.
It wasn't always easy for him to convince people about his cause. In one such incident, a police personnel, told him that mental health is a "sham". On hearing this, Ronit patiently sat down with him and had a conversation. The cop admitted that his job was demanding and it did affect his mental health.
"At the end of two-hour long conversation, he hugged me and agreed to sign my petition," reminiscences Ronit. He says that he wants to work on this denial of people and educate them about mental well-being.
The ex-army cadet says that millennials expect the older generation to accept the changes instantly and don't make an effort to explain them. From his conversations with people, he realized that everyone had an idea about well-being but not necessarily mental health and if the conversations were initiated, we could bridge this gap and break the taboo.
Upon reaching Delhi, he faced another hurdle. His back pain aggravated and the doctor advised him to stop the walk. But, Rohit declined saying that it wasn't an option. One of his friends came to his rescue and volunteered to carry his backpack on a vehicle so he could reach Kashmir.
On 20 April, 2021, he finally completed his journey. Finally, Ronit describes the experience as a humble one where he got to meet amazing people and had challenging but necessary dialogues. He feels that the topic of mental health needs to be discussed often and people need to share their personal experiences openly so that no one suffers from it in silence.