Anshula Tiwari: Bringing change through People of Nora
An Arabic word meaning ‘light’, Nora’s journey so far has been filled with commitment to transform their vision of revolutionising access to quality mental health care into reality. They work with therapists to provide accessible and reliable mental health support to the youth specifically people between the ages of 13 to 20.
We spoke to Anshula Tiwari, the founder of People of Nora to understand how her journey has been so far! We spoke about her inspiration, the hurdles as well as the future.
What inspired you to start People of Nora?
Mental Health and its importance first became a part of my life when I was 13. I heard about an organization called Young Leaders for Active Citizenship. To explain, YLAC works to increase young people’s participation in the policymaking process and build their capacity to lead change. Their Counter Speech Fellowship conducted in association with Instagram is a program for teenagers to start meaningful conversations on issues important to youth around the world. I was chosen to be a part of the fellowship in 2018 and it has profoundly shaped me into who I am today. My team and I created Instagram pages focused on mental well-being, bullying, sustainability and gender equality. I loved the two-month experience but developing the page surrounding mental health is what stayed with me most.
Cut to two years later, 2020 and the world had just gone in lockdown. The pandemic had birthed isolation, loneliness, fear, taken a drastic toll on our minds and the global economy had crashed, rendering millions of people out of a job and unable to feed their families. The virus had forced people to swim in deep, scary waters and trying to stay afloat was getting increasingly difficult. It is then that I came to the realization that though things were hard for everybody, they were especially harder for adolescents when it came to mental well-being. We as a demographic are largely dependent on our families — financially and for access to professionals — and we need safe avenues to find help when we aren’t on good terms with our minds.
With things being rough enough because of the turbulence that we already go through; not having enough resources or feeling guilty for being a financial burden to our families because of how expensive therapy is, only creates a deeper impasse with our minds, and I decided that it was time that I did something about it.
How has your journey been so far? Were there any hurdles along the way?
My journey started slow and was filled with uncertainty. I knew that this issue, of there being a huge barrier between young Indians and professional help would be best understood by people our age so I decided that as far as possible, I would try to keep our organization youth-led. I formed a team in September, almost two months after I had decided my plan of action, and things started to snowball as soon as we had a basic structure in place. Founding and working on People of Nora has been an absolute treat for me, and I feel overwhelmed when I think about how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go. My journey so far can be best described as interesting, because that is what this has been—a lot of new, mind consumingly interesting learning experiences that keep giving me the push I need to continue doing better!
Were there any hurdles along the way?
There have been multiple hurdles and I’m sure they will continue to crop up, but I wouldn’t give up on the experience of working on this for anything in the world. From trying to navigate the registration process to figuring out the legalities; there have been numerous things to keep in mind to make sure that our clients continue to get what they need. I have been blessed to have had a lot of support to be able to do this, and none of it would have been possible without my Core Team and my team of professionals.
What is your vision for the future of People of Nora? How would you like to take it forward?
People of Nora has always moulded to be a safe space. Somewhere teenagers feel at home and receive the support that we so often don’t get. In the next two years, I would like to create as much active change I can, by helping as many people as possible. Since we’re only operating online right now, I understand how we’re catering to the more privileged. There is a whole section of society that we are still inaccessible to and are having to leave out and I would like to change that the moment we have the required resources. I would also like to hold events and travel to various schools across India to raise awareness and lift some of the stigma surrounding mental health as soon as it is safe to do so. There is so much potential that I see in our organization and so many things for us to do to make a larger difference! However, the fact that there is a sea of different notions and ideals to change also humbles me and helps me take it one step at a time. For now, I am focusing on building my network of mental health professionals and working on building our engagement. There is a long way for us to go and I am in no hurry to get to the end of this fulfilling and wonderful journey!