The pandemic managed to bring our deepest anxieties to life. Trapped within the four walls of our homes, the frantic desire for a hideaway or even an outlet for ones’ thoughts, often urged a few of us to reveal our emotions to the first person we encountered, sometimes leaving us in a precarious position. Realising the importance safe spaces can have in one’s life, Shorya Mittal (25), a resident of Indirapuram, launched Humans of Safe Places (HoSP) in 2018. The youth-led social venture seeks to create a judgment-free, empathetic platform, where people can openly talk about stigmatised issues.
Mittal felt the need to start HoSP following a sexual harassment incident she experienced while in college. The incident thus, made her realise the importance of fostering an environment where one can talk freely about their emotions. “It [HoSP] started as a passion project. However, it has grown as a community-driven social venture in the last three years. The issues we engage with are universal in nature; everyone has been through them yet conversations around these issues are not part of our dinner table discussions,” she shares.
Currently incubated under the United Nations Development Programme, HoSP has three verticals— creating awareness, building empathetic communities, and extending individual support. Since their inception, the team has been organising seminars, workshops, discussions, and informative sessions on a wide array of topics. “While mental health encapsulates a lot of things, at HoSP, we focus on emotional wellness,” says Mittal.
HoSP routinely organises a free-for-all event called ‘Guftagoo’—it was previously held at Innov8, Connaught Place, and Kunzum Cafe, Hauz Khas Village—to create a safe space for discussions.
Building empathetic spaces
HoSP also runs a programme called Empathy Ambassadors under which they build a cohort of college students, and train them to create safe places within campuses. “As part of the Empathy Ambassadors programme, I have realised that people are willing to improve their emotional awareness, but they are unaware of the paths to choose. Mental health is real, depression is real, but people choose to ignore this due to social stigma. By being a part of HoSP, I was able to build communities that help develop social and emotional awareness,” says 24-year-old Athul B from Kerala, who joined HoSP in February.
“We started this programme during the pandemic; the aim was to create support groups within college campuses since we were expecting a turbulent situation. Through this initiative we have been able to impact more than 500 youngsters,” concludes Mittal.