Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat is well-known for her mission to become the best atomweight fighter in ONE Championship.

But the Indian Wrestling Champion also holds another mission close to her heart – one related to mental health and the people in her homeland. 

Before Phogat faces Bi “Killer Bee” Nguyen at ONE: DANGAL, which airs this Saturday, 15 May, on the ONE Super App at 6 p.m., she opened up about her passion to improve the way Indians view mental health issues.

It’s an issue that’s especially meaningful for Phogat after she lost her cousin to suicide earlier in 2021.

“It is important to start from the grassroots level. Be it any village, town, or city, we should start spreading awareness,” she said.

“I think it is important to talk to [people suffering from mental health issues]. Sometimes they are alone, even if we are together. There should be more awareness in our society about mental health. We go through depression and negative thoughts, but we are hesitant to talk about it.”

And according to Phogat, getting professional help is not an option for most Indians because of the costs associated with such treatment and the way mental health issues are viewed as a whole in the nation.

“Medical therapy is expensive. Not everyone can afford it, so it is important for all parents to keep talking to their children,” she said.

“The stigma and taboo around this subject must be crushed. People should be able to talk about their problems and worries openly. Mental health should be dealt with, just like how we take care of our physical health.”

In the case of her cousin, Phogat believes that had she been back in India and able to lend an ear, the outcome might have been different.

“I was really disturbed and sad [when my cousin passed away]. She was dear to me,” Phogat said.

“We could not stay in touch for the past year after I moved to Singapore. I don’t know why she took that extreme step.

“I keep thinking that if I was there, I could have talked to her and helped her. Unfortunately, none of my sisters were present there either.”

With that in mind, Phogat will remain on this unwavering mission in hopes of helping others.

“I want to raise awareness about this subject. This is a very important and serious issue,“ she said.

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