Are people with mental health issues ready to open up and are people ready to listen without judgements?
Sitting at lunch, swiping through social media and suddenly receiving the grave news of Sushant Singh Rajput dying of suicide, left me in utter shock. I remember discarding the news as fake and checking at least 10 websites before letting it sink in. Within a few hours my Instagram feed and Whatsapp were filled with pictures of the actor and speculation of his depressed state. At one side, there were people urging everyone to be empathetic and kind and on the other were media organisations stuffing mics in the face of the actor’s family.
There was a blaze of despair on social media over the passing of the artist who was an ideal example of a “Self-made” actor. His struggles and hard work helped him make a mark in both his television as well as bollywood careers. His fellow actors as well as several reports claimed that the actor was suffering from depression. His death started a conversation on mental health and healthy communication over various platforms.
Mourning a celebrity’s death is not new in this country or anywhere in the world. Every time an ideal or famous icon dies, social media and news websites flood with their memories, tributes, celebrating their careers, expressing sorrow. This death was different than the others, firstly, because it was untimely and he had a longer life ahead which is why it came as a shock to all of us, secondly because it was a suicide and since it was one it opened a room for discussion on mental health and it’s likes. These two are also the reason for speculations, conspiracy theories and sometimes (at least in this case) unsettling images going around the internet.
While the actor’s death is extremely saddening, so is this sudden outburst of “Talk, Seek help, I am here for you”. As someone struggling to keep her own mental health in check on a daily basis, I believe it is easier to say ‘I am here for you’ than apply it because being there for someone suffering from anxiety or depression is a process, it requires a constant effort. It is extremely triggering to see people; who ignore when you talk, don’t listen properly, disregard mental health as a phase; putting up stories preaching that they are there for you.
One of the tweets that went viral after Sushant’s death said, “If suicide ever crosses your mind just know, I’d rather listen to your story than attend your funeral”, this tweet made me realise that people would see and recognise your depression only if it leads to sucide. None of us ever knows what anyone is going through, consistently being kind to all everyday is the one thing we should practice. Not everyone wishes to discuss their issues, hence kindness is what’s going to help in the longer run to understand the importance of mental health and not a one-day burst over the internet.
There has been a need to bring a change in how people perceive mental health and to destigmatize it, especially in a country like India where we constantly get to hear things like, “How can you be smiling and still be depressed?”, “Depression and all is nothing, you’ll get over this phase”, “You just overthink a lot, try not to”. Everyone does need to educate themselves more on mental health, better things to speak, better ways to help friends and most importantly better ways to be there for them.
Accepting mental health issues is more than being philosophical and writing poems on twitter to talk about problems. Lost in the trend of being aware about these issues, people have seized to go beyond that and make an effort to understand them and how they take a toll on someone’s mind. Things like, “He had it all, money, fans, good career; why did he take his life?”, need to stop because happiness and peace cannot be bought with money and fame. Everyone has different issues and a unique way of dealing with them, while some can choose to talk about it others just want people to be there, no questions asked but no one likes a temporary, I am here for you.
The demise of Sushant was extremely appalling and disheartening. People actively addressing the issue of depression and mental health is just the beginning of a long journey for India. Addressal of the issue brings awareness and would in-turn lessen the stigma around therapies, consuming medicines and seeking help. Making an effort and acknowledging that the society is flawed is one step forward towards a non-judgemental society. The band-width of problems surrounding mental health is wider than it seems, some people don’t have any friends to talk to, some don’t have the resources to seek help and some are blamed for seeking attention when they decide to finally talk about it. The world’s more cruel than we think and what triggers someone no one knows. People with mental health issues need space to interpret their suffering, warmth and kindness but no one wants to hear that their problems are not real and that ‘they’re too sensitive’ or ‘too depressed’. We need to be each other’s cheerleaders; not judge and disregard feelings.
Sanskriti Falor is a third-year Journalism student at Delhi University.