” I am what time, circumstance, history have made of me, certainly; but I am also much more than that, So are we all” – James Baldwin.
With the sad news, which broke on a Sunday afternoon, the pictures of Sushant Singh Rajput were trending all across the media outlets and social media platforms. People from different walks of life poured their respective obituaries to one of India’s promising young actor. It was a case of ‘clinical depression’ which culminated into suicide. He was just thirty-four and was doing pretty good in his field. It was an utter shock and its smoke covered the entire nation.
According to the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) Data – 1, 34, 516 people have committed suicide in 2018. One can debate and discuss the various reasons behind these suicides, but, what unifies most of the cases is depression and utter neglect of our society towards acknowledging the same. By evening, the entire nation became an expert on mental health and some even started to judge his decision based on their perceptions. Some went ahead and duly channelize a populistic outlook of our society – by seeking refuge in conservatism and so called ‘traditions’; which duly negates any such step as a cowardly phenomenon. People started to hound those who outpoured their sympathies about mental illness and depression. The whole idea of depression leading to suicide often gets rebuked in Indian society and the same discourse was visible on various platforms. Negative energy in the age of twitter has a new name, which is often known as ‘trolling’.
Yes, without any shadow of doubt, suicides cannot be sympathised nor can be encouraged. But ridiculing the move and negating the idea of mental health – remains an anathema for any society. It was his personal choice to end his life in a wrong way. What he must have been going through in his last moments remains a mystery; as his body was recovered without any note. But, this tragedy has once more provided us an opportunity to reflect and to understand that ‘depression is a disease’ – which needs to be cured and not to be ignored or mocked upon.
Apart from the positive support which erupted on various platforms, the negativity was all around. People started to create analogies with a common human being’s life and went to the extent of ridiculing his death with several conspiracy theories. The whole historical trajectory of ridiculing the idea of mental health is not new for our nation. After all World Health Organisation says, India is the most depressed country in the entire world and one cannot divide society’s role from this glaring study. In the name of traditions, we have deprived our people (women folk specially) to analyse that – something like mental disease exists, and it is more dangerous than visible disease, which kills them daily. And this invisible disease is depression. In India, generations of human beings have been trained in a such a way, which not only undermines the concept of mental health, but reduces it to madness with magical spells. And deaths related to it often regarded as either mistake or method of madness. On contrary, depression is perhaps the only disease which cut across caste, class, gender et al. and revolve around the trauma of a human soul.
The reflection of Sushant’s existential crisis and its communication has to be done in the context of nation, because he was a ‘public figure’. The whole idea of communication becomes important, when it is attached with a person – whose aura revolves around the masses or public. Now, why we should trace the whole idea of depression in general terms while pondering upon Sushant’s death? Why the communication matters? Another query is – if it’s a common disease and people are regularly dying of it, why only Sushant’s death? And the last query culminates into the myriad of analogies and trolling, which has not only sensationalise his death, but also led to blatant ridicules.
The answer to all such queries is related to the communication and reach, which Sushant’s death has created. It has duly given us once again a window of opportunity to take the matters related to mental health quite seriously. Our approach towards the idea of depression needs to be changed and this communication should become stronger. The grammar and language of communication can have multiple layers, but it cannot be either ridiculed with traditional conservative values or merely by creating analogies. Yes, everyone and each death related to mental health remains important, but when a ‘public figure’ takes his life in front of ‘public eyes – the whole idea that, something is wrong in our society becomes much stronger and brutally honest. Sushant has left this world, but it is time that we should move beyond the negativity and utter nuisance and listen to our health experts.
Indeed, we have lost a promising actor and a wonderful human being, who must have entertained us with multiple personalities on celluloid; but his death too has given us multiple layers to ponder upon. This particular tragedy has started ‘a communication’ again and it should not stop. We may be wrong in our arguments, but we should not use the negative language to overpower our own existential crisis. Sometimes difficult conversations are required to ascertain a clarity and truth. The first half of Sushant’s life was awesomely terrific, his journey from a ‘common man to a star’ will always inspire so many people. But his decision to end his life during the interval, have shocked all of us, we all must have assumed that – his second half would have been magical one too. But when we were busy in comprehending about his second half – he has left us with myriad of untold brutal stories, which is our stories too. His death has started a communication and it should not stop at all!!!!!!
Dr Biplove Kumar, Assistant Professor, School of Law (SOL), NMIMS, Indore