Zehra Mehdi is a psychoanalytical psychotherapist. She heads the mental health initiative at the Volunteer’s Collective, a community organisation which, apart from other work, had been providing legal and financial aid to victims of the 2020 Delhi carnage.
Zehra is currently doing her PhD from Columbia University on religion, politics, and psychoanalysis, and has valuable insights to offer into the plight of Muslims in India.
In a conversation with Hameeda Syed of Newslaundry, she talks about the mental health of Muslim and non-Muslim youth in India at a time when the new citizenship law has riven society and even a health emergency has been hijacked to peddle anti-Muslim hatred. She also talks about being a video counsellor during lockdown and tackling the fear of the “invisible enemy” that’s the novel coronavirus.
On the demonisation of the minority community, Zehra worries that the Muslim is increasingly going to be projected as the “common enemy”. “It can be the practising visible Muslims who can be seen, picked on, beaten, put in their place. This is where I tell a lot of people that you will have to understand why Muslims are being targeted.”
On the mental health impact of the coronavirus lockdown, she says within a day or two of it being imposed, “I started to get random messages from people who knew I was in India, practising on Skype, saying they weren’t really sure if they would be able to see their therapists who don’t work via Skype. I started to feel that for a lot of people, being at home is not going to be easy.”