When Indian Wrestling Champion Ritu Phogat steps into the Circle this Saturday, 15 May, to take on Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen at the previously recorded ONE: DANGAL, she’ll be fighting for more than her own legacy.
After losing her cousin to suicide earlier this year, the mixed martial arts star has been adamant about getting people in India the support they need to cope with mental health issues.
“I was really disturbed and sad [when my cousin passed away]. She was dear to me,” Phogat said.
“We could not stay in touch for the past year after I moved to Singapore. I don’t know why she took that extreme step.
“I keep thinking that if I was there, I could have talked to her and helped her. Unfortunately, none of my sisters were present there either.”
Ritu Phogat talks about stigma surrounding mental health
In order for the stigma surrounding mental health in India to lift, Phogat believes change must happen from the bottom up.
“It is important to start from the grassroots level. Be it any village, town, or city, we should start spreading awareness,” she continued.
“I think it is important to talk to [people suffering from mental health issues]. Sometimes they are alone, even if we are together. There should be more awareness in our society about mental health. We go through depression and negative thoughts, but we are hesitant to talk about it.”
Phogat knows the cost of treatment for mental health issues can be a barrier for many people back home.
But ultimately, she believes that in order for any change to take place, it must start now, with older generations speaking to the youth about the subject and showing them it’s okay to open up.
“Medical therapy is expensive. Not everyone can afford it, so it is important for all parents to keep talking to their children,” Phogat said.
“The stigma and taboo around this subject must be crushed. People should be able to talk about their problems and worries openly. Mental health should be dealt with, just like how we take care of our physical health.”
In the end, Phogat has one mission. It may sound simple, but it’s notable.
“I want to raise awareness about this subject. This is a very important and serious issue,” she said.
Watch ONE: DANGAL on Hotstar, Star Sports Select 2, or Star Sports First at 3:30 p.m. India Standard Time (IST) on Saturday, 15 May.
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