After being born and brought up in North India’s Varanasi, Shobhika Jaju made her way through two metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Kolkata and finally settled here in the coastal state of Goa in 2013 after her marriage. Her open mind, and always positive attitude, coupled with her keen interest in psychology, paved the way for her to launch Silver Linings in 2015 – a leading guidance and counseling center located in Margao.
Describing the scenario of mental health conversations back then, Shobhika attributes her idea of Silver Linings to the fact, that there was a very little open conversation on mental health issues in the state.
“The whole idea about Silver Linings was there was not much conversation happening about mental health back then. Even though there were very good NGO’s working in this field in Goa, still people were not talking about it much. Also, there was nothing like this at all in South Goa,” she says.
Shobhika has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, while also being a Certified Career Counsellor and a Certified Queer Affirmative Practitioner. At Silver Linings, she, along with her experienced team, deal with all types of mental health issues, ranging from emotional, career, academic to depression, and anxiety concerns.
Re-counting how she got into this field, Shobhika says, “I am probably one of those few people who didn’t have any other aim in life, other than wanting to become a psychologist. I also had other options in mind and explored my possibilities in the field of economics, labour laws, human rights, and HR. These are all connected to human behavior, but psychology was always the most preferred choice for me. Today I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Establishing herself at Silver Linings, however, hasn’t been a smooth journey for her. Originally not being from Goa, and coming from a family with no medical backgrounds, Shobhika says that the biggest difficulty for her has been to create a brand for herself.
“I was also like an outsider here. But I met a lot of good people during this journey, many local Goans too, who have been instrumental in pushing me to start this clinic. They have also given me opportunities to see through and showed faith in my work. I somehow, one by one, came across a lot of people that always believed in me and my work.”
Life in Goa was nothing that she had anticipated. After experiencing the hustle in two of India’s most crowded cities, Shobhika’s switch to the ‘susegad’ Goa has enabled the creation of very positive and safe space in the state to enable people to speak about mental health issues, through Silver Linings. Here, she has managed to mark herself as a respected and professional person in this field, and the steady ground that she is on today, wouldn’t have been possible without the support and immense guidance she received throughout.
Being a mother to a two and half-year-old, for Shobhika, setting boundaries has always been a key aspect for her in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. “It does become difficult at times to strike a work-life balance. But I do try and maintain some boundaries. My weekends are for my baby and family,” she says.
Besides, she also is a lecturer at the psychology department at Parvatibai Chowgule College, and although having a busy routine between parallel works, nothing has deterred her from doing what she loves. At Chowgule’s, she says that she has been grateful for the positive culture that exists as she received a lot of support considering she had a clinic, and also had a yearning to teach.
“I have been somebody who has never said no to any work assigned to me as long as it interests me.”
In a society like ours, conversation on mental health issues is at times associated with a strong societal stigma. There also exists large neglect among persons to speak up about such issues, and in times like this, Shobhika and her team encourage people to talk.
“According to me, the whole purpose of therapy is to give people an opportunity to talk. People have not had that space to talk to others without getting suggestions or to fix their problems. I tell people to just come and talk and leave it on the psychologist to decide whether you need therapy or not,” she says.
Nothing in the world is more important than one’s mental health, she says, adding that because of the pandemic, people are finally realizing that mental health cannot be taken for granted.
“Mental health is a part of your everyday life and therefore it demands attention more than your physical health also. Right now, people are experiencing a lot of mental health issues because of the uncertainties. But the long-term compounding effect of this whole situation on the mental health of all age groups is something we are not even talking about and we are not even able to understand what negative impact it is going to have in a year or two down the line.”
Through Silver Linings, Shobhika believes that mental health has to be prioritized, and there is a ray of hope as people are finally waking up to it. Keeping in mind her client’s priorities, Silver Linings also offers therapy sessions through an online mode, something research has proven to be as effective as physical sessions.
Having a resolute to constantly keep herself updated, Shobhika also regularly updates herself through short term courses. Having all these parallel journeys, she also talks about mental health concerns through her specially curated columns for numerous publications.
At a time when mental health concerns are being widely prioritized across communities, it is people like Shobhika that enable the creation of this very much needed safe space for mental health issues to have a wider platform.
A special story featuring Shobhika Jaju, psychologist and psychotherapist, on completion of five years at Silver Linings: Guidance and Counselling Centre, Margao. If you or anyone you know needs professional guidance and is not feeling well mentally, do not hesitate to reach out to Shobhika Jaju at Silver Linings through [email protected]
The Author : Ronnan Da Cunha