Priya Bhargava, Miss Wheelchair India 2015 winner, Ambassador of Miss Wheelchair World in India, Ambassador of Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of India, TEDx and Motivational Speaker; is a role model not only to the persons with disabilities but also to others as well.

Besides, she is an educationist, fine artist and freelance writer. She has demonstrated tremendous determination and spirit to lead a very courageous life, combating multiple health issues and social challenges. From creative pursuits like painting, art and crafts, writing poems and short stories to participating in a beauty pageant, modelling, teaching, guiding, counselling and motivating the children of socially weaker sections are the activities close to her heart. She is also a YouTuber also, where she uploads lessons on Maths, Science (10+2) level, Psychology (Masters level), Arts, Crafts and on ‘Life Skills’.

Priya Bhargava has demonstrated different facets of her skills to overcome challenges of life, which she is teaching others too; as how to face the challenges and overcome the difficulties of life to become successful and useful citizens of the Nation.

WE QIP caught up with her to know more about the challenges she has faced and how she is overcoming them and inspiring others.

WE: How did your journey as a mental health advocate begin?

PB: It all started with my illness. I have an incurable unpredictable autoimmune disease called SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) in short ‘Lupus’. This disease can affect any of the vital organs including kidneys, heart, lungs, skin, even the spine and brain. Depression is also a part of it. At the age of 19, I was diagnosed with Lupus while I was pursuing physiotherapy as my graduation. Within a year of diagnosis, it attacked not only my skin but my nervous system too. First, I went into a clinical depression called schizophrenia and then I got bedridden. That made me discontinue my dream career.

Later on, with little recovery, I completed graduation and post-graduation in computer applications. But my desire to understand the human mind was always there. Since depression is an on and off problem in most illnesses including lupus, I wanted to understand it. So, I pursued a Masters in Psychology and became a practising psychologist.

WE: What challenges do did you face from society?

PB: Some people are always there in our society who judge you either in the form of critic on your work or make insensitive comments. I have faced such things as bullying in college to comments from one of my dad’s colleagues about my illness and dark future. I didn’t have any answer at that time because I wasn’t in a state of stable mind where I could decide anything. My relatives had disowned me, I was kept inside one room during a wedding because I had become disabled and was considered inauspicious. My maternal aunt asked my mother to take me somewhere else from their house as they thought my disease was contagious. Instead, I was on immunosuppressive drugs and I was prone to infections, not them. Unfortunately, people speak without giving a second thought.

WE: How do you think your story is helping people who are facing mental health issues?

PB: Honestly, I don’t know how people would like to take my story. I just want to share my story and how my sufferings are making me stronger. I want to say that mental illness is a phase, it is not you, it doesn’t define you. You are much more than what you think you are. I have started live sessions every Sunday on my YouTube Channel, to help people understand life better, not only their own but others’ too. I want to sensitise people about mental health.

WE: What are your plans for the future?

PB: I wish to open my own Counselling Centre where I would like to create an environment which will motivate people to find purpose in their life.

WE: What is your message – to mental health advocates and those dealing with mental health issues?

PB: As I have already said, Mental Illness is a phase, it doesn’t define you. You have immense power to create new you every moment. You need to learn, unlearn and relearn. We need to understand the fact that mental illness creates havoc not only in the life of the sufferer but also that of the family members. Together we can change the mindset of people about mental illness. We need to open up on this because nowadays most sufferers are from 10-30 age groups.

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