The sudden demise of beloved Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has left his loved ones and fans in shock. The Maharashtra police confirmed that the actor lost his life to suicide, and his body was found in his Mumbai home yesterday. Reports also confirmed that Sushant had been undergoing treatment for depression.
Following his suicide, social media has been flooded with tributes for Sushant, and has also initiated a crucial dialogue about the importance of mental health awareness. Several people have shared their well-meaning opinions on the topic, with some telling their friends and family to ‘not be afraid to reach out’, while others posted suicide hotline numbers. And as well-intentioned as these social media posts might be, when it comes to mental health, simply posting on Instagram may not be enough. However, it is also important to understand that mental illness is a delicate matter, and you must be extremely sensitive about what you say to someone who reaches out to you.
According to counselling psychologist Tanvii Bhandari, the most important thing you can do for someone who’s struggling to cope with a mental health issue is treat them with care–just like you would if they were physically ill. Here are some important points to remember before initiating dialogue and offering support to a loved one:
“This applies to everyone irrespective of whether they have a mental illness or not,” says Tanvii. In today’s world of cancel culture, it’s very easy to judge others and draw conclusions about them. An off-handed comment made without much thought might trigger a negative emotional response in someone. On the other hand, small acts of kindness can go a long way. So always remember to be mindful of your words and actions, and be kind to the people in your life. Most importantly, don’t forget to be kind to yourself!
Seeing someone you care about being distressed can be overwhelming, but we urge you to fight your instinct of pushing them–whether it’s to follow your advice or to make changes in their life. Only a mental health professional can guide them on how to navigate their mental illness. Alternatively, icing them out because you don’t know what to say is also a bad idea. So what can you do? Learn how to be there for them. And be as gentle as possible. “Imagine a person has injured their foot–you’ll let them sit out of races but you’ll continue to talk, go out and eat, and watch movies with them. Similarly when you know a particular topic/aspect is a soft spot or trigger point–avoid talking about that. But you don’t need to and shouldn’t avoid interacting with the person.”
People suffering from mental illnesses are often hesitant to approach friends and family because they fear not being taken seriously. Saying things like “you’re being dramatic”, “it’s just a bad phase” or “try to be more positive!” can seem dismissive, and push them further away. “With anyone suffering from a condition that is debilitating or incapacitating in any way, the biggest fear is that they will stop being relevant or will be made fun of. Always, always treat the other person with 100% respect,” says Tanvii.
Silence is not golden when someone you care about is suffering from mental health issues. It is important to reach out and ask your loved ones how they are doing–even if they may not be ready to talk about their problems, they will be reassured by the fact that someone is happy to listen to them. In fact, according to Tanvii, you should act exactly the way you would had they been suffering from a physical illness. “When we have a friend who has a cold (temporary illness) or cancer (more intense illness) we check in with them, we reach out just to say hi or show support. We must similarly check in with friends who we know are are going through a tough time or are prone to have trouble with challenges,” says Tanvii.
It is natural to want to take a loved one’s pain away, but it is important to remember that you can’t do that when it comes to mental illness. And don’t resort to giving them advice either–only a mental health professional can do that. What you can do is help them with resources on mental health and encourage them to seek professional help. Besides that, the best thing you can offer them is your support. “You can’t walk another person’s path for them. You can, however, allow them to lean on you from time to time and be there for them when they stumble. Just a simple “hey, I’m thinking of you” message can brighten up a day for someone who is having a gloomy time,” says Tanvii.
It can be challenging to extend your support to someone suffering from a mental health issue. But simply extending your support and opening up a dialogue about the subject can make a huge difference for someone who is struggling. So don’t hesitate to reach out to a loved one–you never know who needs it today!
If you are feeling suicidal, we urge to reach out to a mental health professional on these numbers:
Aasra: +91 98204 66726
Fortis Stress Helpline: +9183768 04102
Parivarthan: +91 76766 02602
Cooj Mental Health Foundation: +832 2252525
Sneha Foundation: 044-24640050