ThatMate, an online platform working towards creating awareness about sexuality and sexual and mental health, uses sarahah, the anonymous messaging app, to help users discuss their problems freely
Do you share your anxiety or depression with friends and family? Do you feel comfortable talking about your sexual health with a friend or doctor? Can you tell your parents about your sexual orientation? The answer would be a resounding ‘No’. The kind of stigma that surrounds both sexual and mental disorders in our country makes it difficult for people to come out and talk about them, let alone seeking professional help.
ThatMate, an online bilingual forum which is actively trying to educate people about sex and also raises awareness about mental illness, has taken the help of Sarahah app which is a big rage on social media nowadays. The anonymous feature of the app, which was developed about six months ago in Saudi Arabia, has become a perfect tool for ThatMate team to encourage people to address issues which they might not be able to discuss otherwise.
A ray of hope
Madhavi Jadhav, founder of ThatMate, along with her team of counsellors and psychologists (Dr Ambrish Dharmadhikari, Dr Mosam Phirke, Divya Shah, Shruti Lakkaraju, Ankit Khaitan, Tucker McGaw), has been tirelessly trying to fight the taboos that are associated with both sex and psychological ailments.
“We were planning to come up with a forum which will allow people to share their problems and yet their identity will not be disclosed. Since Sarahah app has taken the internet by storm because of its anonymous feature and letting users post constructive messages, we thought of encouraging people to share issues surrounding their sexuality, sexual and mental problems using the app. The anonymous feature came to our aid because sex and mental issues are considered taboo in our society. When these topics are discussed or when you talk about your sexual life even with a friend, chances are that you might be judged, hence we thought anonymity can help them open up and talk about their issues,” says Jadhav.
People can visit www.thatmate.sarahah.com and seek help from ThatMate team of professionals. When asked about the kind of messages that come to them, Jadhav says, “Just today, someone posted on our app saying ‘he feels suicidal’. It is a serious concern. Another person wrote asking if depression is curable. A couple of days ago, a 17-year old shared his excessive addiction to smoking and wanted to get rid of the addiction. People have shared issues like phimosis (a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be pulled back past the glans), boredom in sexual life and so on. On a positive note, even a lot of women are coming forward to share the problems and seek solutions.”
Jadhav further adds that sex education is never taught in schools nor is it discussed openly. Also, there is a lot of stigma associated with mental illness. “For instance, if you say you are depressed, people may think that you have gone mad. When someone shares that s/he is depressed, one shouldn’t bully him/ her, instead be supportive of the person,” she says.
Bringing about a change
When asked how does they counsel people, Jadhav says, “We share their queries and problems on our Facebook page and our experts provide them with answers. If we feel they need to seek professional or medical help, we suggest them the same.”
Jadhav says through her platform she not only wants to help people but also bring about a change in mindset. “Once a man confessed that he looks at women/ girls with disrespect and masturbates thinking about them. I guess this is due to unawareness and lack of education and a lot of sexual abuse and rapes happen due to this. People need to change their perspective,” insists Jadhav.