Meet Satvik Sethi, creator of "Runaway" - a movement which promotes positivity and self-help for mental health through workshops, an app, and a positivity zone.
Tell us about Runaway.
Runaway is a social entrepreneurial venture that aims to spread mental health awareness and make the world happier.
Currently we're working on 3 modules:
1. Hosting events and workshops focused around mental health.
2. A mobile app that will allow users to anonymously talk to our highly skilled and monitored set of volunteers from across the world. The app will provide users with a platform to vent out their emotions, talk about their problems, and seek encouragement.
3. Our carefully and passionately curated positivity zone that provides users with happy art, quotes, music, inspiring stories, etc. in order to life their spirits and bring some happiness to them.
What compelled you to start it?
In February 2014, right in the middle of my final exams, I was up late one night searching for art and quotes on Instagram, but instead stumbled across animage of someone self-harming accompanied by a post of everything that was troubling them emotionally. That night itself I started finding people like that and came across several posts with captions such as “I cannot live anymore,” “After 40 days of being clean, I used the blade again today”, “My family hates me”, among other devastating words. What I noticed with each of these images was the use of hashtags such as ‘anorexia’, ‘bulimia’, ‘scars’, ‘hurting’, ‘pain’, ‘self harm’; it was as if these people really wanted to be noticed, to be heard, they had no names on the account, on the internet you could be anybody and that’s exactly what they were doing; accounts made to vent their emotions and problems, the things they were too afraid to say out loud. And on these images, people tried helping, and eager to help I started reaching out too. I spent the next 4 hours that night downloading various messengers, commenting on multiple images and reaching out to anyone who could use a friend. That night, I stopped 6 people from hurting themselves and even made some of them laugh, as they spoke about their lives, hobbies, passions and problems.
I started spending more and more time on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook looking for people who were emotionally devoid. In a span of eight weeks, I came across over 50 people from countries like India, Sweden, United States, Russia, Australia, Belgium, etc., all suffering from multitude mental and physical disorders. They were jostling with issues like bulimia, anorexia, broken families, social exclusion, self -harming and their suicidal thoughts. As a 16 year old, it was frightening to see so much pain but I knew I was onto something. Over a period of time, I befriended them, became a good listener and helped reinstate their faith in life. To date, I’ve spoken to and helped roughly 180 people from all age groups, across the world. I’m still in touch with some of the friends I made through the project. It’s great to see some of them become immensely successful at work - as writers, photographers, artists, and corporate executives among other great jobs. Some of them recently got into or graduated from prestigious colleges and it’s an amazing feeling to see them do well, and to know you were there for them when they were so close to giving up.
I’m extremely humbled by my experiences and aim to reach and help as many people as possible. To facilitate this, I started establishing ‘Runaway’ and I hope that through this project, I can make the world happier.
What is your best piece of advice to someone who is struggling with mental health or just feel they're in a 'slump'?
The best thing about life is that nothing is permanent. When someone is going through a tough time, the obvious thing to do is to tell them to feel better, but that’s one thing they’re sick of hearing. Instead I tell them to believe in the future, and that eventually things will work out. I tell them to think about all the wonderful things they could potentially miss out on if they choose to close their eyes on the world today. Instead of providing my own biased suggestions, I listen to people and let them vent and get it all out of their system. Then I simply give them positive encouragement and recommend them to do things they love doing the most. I tell them to go out for a walk, watch their favorite movie, read a book, eat their favorite food, and do anything that makes them happy, relaxed and refreshed. I think one of the biggest mistakes people commit when trying to help is imposing their own idea of what is right for the person in a situation. Instead just listen and let the person take control of themselves in a positive manner.
Reach out to Runaway at: