TV shows

Cue the dramatic music as National Geographic launches ‘MARS’ show

Combining interviews and fiction, the docu-drama hopes to shrink the distance between earthlings and the red planet.

Year: 2033. Address: Somewhere on Mars.

The National Geographic channel’s latest offering is a six-part mini-series about efforts by Elon Musk’s company Space Exploration Technologies Corporation to build a colony on Mars by 2033. MARS, co-produced by Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) and directed by Everardo Gout, cuts between the present and 2033. In the future, a fictional crew sets up a colony on the red planet, while in the present, Elon Musk joins other space research celebrities, including former astronaut Charles Bolden, Mars Society president Robert Zubrin and Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, about the possibility of a life on Mars. The show will be aired on National Geographic every Monday from November 14 at 9pm.

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‘MARS’.

In the fictional portions, a team of astronauts led by the actor Ben Sawyer is taking its maiden voyage to the red planet aboard the spacecraft Daedalus. The future is presented as filled with uncertainty and drama. Even the launch of Daedalus is presented as a nerve-wracking event even though we know how it ends. The fictionalised events are so engaging that the present-day interviews with the scientists pale in comparison.

MARS has been scripted keeping in mind the real possibilities and limitations of such an expedition. The crew in 2033 runs through scenarios listed by the scientists. “Some of us, if not all of us, will almost certainly die on this mission,” Sawyer tells hie crew. ”Might be in take-off, might be in landing, might be in the new world itself”.

MARS lists out the preparation, money, time and research that a space endeavour involves. The idea is to reduce the distance between earthlings and the red planet. However, the jargon in the documentary bits holds MARS back ever so slightly from becoming cutting-edge television. For many viewers, Mars and space research are scientific mumbo-jumbo, and the series goes some way, if not all the way, towards demystifying Earth’s attempts to colonise its planetary neighbour.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.