Conversations around mental health are once again happening all around us after actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. The 34-year-old actor was found hanging at his home in Bandra on Sunday. The police said they suspect he died by suicide.
And a pandora's box opened up on mental health.
Most of us refused to believe that Sushant had died when the news first surfaced on social media. Even when TV channels had broken the news, a colleague said it was possibly fake news. It was, in fact, a hard-to-believe fact, particularly for his fans who know their favourite actors as the happy faces on celluloid. But, that is the thing about mental health: you never know what that warm smile and hearty laughter are concealing.
Within hours of Sushant’s death, social media was brimming with posts on mental health. His death blew the lid off the issue of mental health that is like an open secret of our society. We all know a friend, a colleague or a family member who grapples with depression, anxiety and many other mental health problems. Most of the times we try to be each others’ therapists, just to avoid the stigmatisation. Sometimes it is our own denial to acknowledge the problem that we refuse to seek professional help.
Actors, politicians, writers, journalists and almost everyone on social media were in utter disbelief that Sushant Singh Rajput, that young actor whose smile shone brightly in his eyes, was no more among us.
While there were half-baked suggestions, no matter how well-meaning, on tackling mental health, there were many others who took a preachy tone, patronising those who battling depression and anxiety every moment of their life. This tweet by a social media influencer is a classic example.
“You know why our parents are so mentally strong and emotionally stable... because they stayed close to their family, lived life on a foundation of rock solid morals, believed in relationships, stayed committed and were religious. Maybe that's what we as a generation are lacking.”
You know why our parents are so mentally strong and emotionally stable... because they stayed close to their family, lived life on a foundation of rock solid morals, believed in relationships, stayed committed and were religious. Maybe that's what we as a generation are lacking. — SwatKat💃 (@swatic12) June 14, 2020
Well, who said our parents and elders are mentally strong? They are humans too and they too have breaking points. And let us not forget that they are from the generation who never talked about mental health like a health issue. Morals and religion have nothing to do with things like depression. In 2018, a French man jumped off the roof of Mecca’s holiest mosque. He was on a holy pilgrimage. Had mental health been about being close to religion and morals, he would have never ended his life at the holiest place as per his belief. If some of us still want to believe that mental health is about morals and religious beliefs, take a look at our elders who suffer diseases like Alzheimer and dementia. These are mental health issues too and, as this influencer says, the elders are closer to families, religion and morals. By that logic, they should have been the healthiest ones. But no, that is not the case. Depression is not “in your head” and cannot be cured by “thinking positive thoughts”. Have you tried curing fever by thinking that it is just in your head? No, that is not how our body works. We still catch flu when surrounded by family members. People do get migraine attacks when they are having the best time with their friends. Such comments mock the suffering of those who use all their resources and energy to come out of the abyss of mental illnesses. But perhaps, this is more than just preachy thoughts. This is about lack of empathy and sensitivity. If this tweet wasn’t enough, there was another social media user who suggested the most bizarre way to prevent suicides—to alter the designs of ceiling fans. This is a cruel joke. Ceiling fans don’t trigger suicides, depression does.
#ceilingfans need to be redesigned. They should be henceforth be made such that they collapse with load/ weight of 20kgs + on it — Suchitra Krishnamoorthi (@suchitrak) June 15, 2020
A similar suggestion was given by Rakhi Sawant a few years ago when actor Pratyusha Banerjee had ended her life. Remove all the fans, hide all the poisonous substances, throw away all the knives, and barricade all the balconies, but depression will not stop to exist. Suicidal thoughts will exist, depressive thoughts will not vanish in thin air.
Not all of us are mental health experts and we are not supposed to be. Just like not all of us are doctors, you know? The least that we can do is not jump the gun with our opinions about issues that we don’t understand. With our uninformed opinion on mental health, we come across as insensitive fools and end up mocking the suffering of so many people out there.