Actor Sushant Singh Rajput's shocking death by suicide has initiated a long-delayed conversation on mental health in India. People are finally grasping the idea that mental illnesses need to be taken as seriously as physical ailments and when ignored, they can easily escalate into something damaging and even life-threatening.
Deepika Padukone, who has long been an advocate for mental health issues and runs an organisation named Live Love Foundation to raise awareness, recently held a discussion with mental health experts to talk about depression, suicide, and the misconceptions around it. She spoke to Dr Shyam Bhat and Dr Soumitra Pathare to better understand the mindset of someone who is suicidal as well the stigma around the world and how it has curbed the most basic and important discussion on the topic.
“While I embarked on this journey more than 5 years ago, recent tragic events have made us all realise that now more than ever, we need to prioritise mental health & intensify our focus on #SuicidePrevention,” Deepika wrote on her Instagram story before posting the video on the YouTube channel of her Live Love Laugh Foundation.
During the chat, Deepika raised questions about the atmosphere of "fear and stigma" around the topic of suicide when Dr Bhat revealed that "Suicide probably is the worst mental health crisis that the world is facing right now and statistics suggest that this tragedy happens almost 1000 times in a day in our country."
He added, "When someone prominent dies from suicide, there's obviously a lot of outpouring of grief and confusion and everyone asks this question. But I just want to remind people that everyone is a hero to their family and it is a crisis if we are losing 800-1000 people in a day. We know from data that between the age of 15 to 24, suicide is the biggest cause of death and for Indians from the ages of 15 and 39 suicide, is the leading cause of death. This means suicide is taking away our youngest people and yet in spite of the fact that it is so common, we seem to not understand enough about it."
The doctors thus posited a lack of understanding around the idea and mental health altogether that makes it such a difficult topic to navigate and thus generates the stigma. They also insisted that it is not a particular industry that is to be blamed, but the overall modern life toxicity and the capitalist environment that makes every industry equally stressful.
Dr. Bhat also helped with an analogy to illustrate how problematic questions like "Why did someone die of suicide?" happen to be. He explains that asking what made someone die of suicide is just like asking what made someone to die of a heart attack.
He explained that when someone goes out for a run and ends up dying of a heart attack, we never directly blame the run. We attribute it to a number of interplaying factors like his cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, etc. that might have been existing for some time. Similarly, it is important to understand that most of the time it is a number of triggers that drive people to suicide, and identifying these triggers can certainly help to a great extent.
During the chat, the doctors also talked about the necessity of reaching out to someone if you think that they are at risk of suicide and asking upfront if they are too anguished or if they are contemplating ending their lives. While most of us refrain from doing this assuming that this might plant the idea in the head of the person if they weren't already thinking of it, it is not true. Thus, in case you notice someone struggling, the best approach is to reach out to them and then help them seek professional help.
Lastly, it is very important to remember that it does not cost anything to be empathetic and there's no shame in reaching out to people when you feel like they are going through a rough time--your kindness might literally save a life.
Featured Image: Instagram