Today marks one year since the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Since his untimely demise by alleged suicide that took the country by storm during the nationwide lockdown last year, there has been a shocking increase in the suicide rate in India, especially among celebrities. According to a study by the International Journal of Mental Health Systems, there were media reports of 369 cases of suicides and attempted suicides during the lockdown last year, marking a 67.7% increase in online news media reports of suicidal behaviour.
“When it comes to a lockdown, you have a feeling of being caged and confined. Instances of panic and apprehension get triggered in our minds. The freedom that we have of going out and socializing is instantly put on a restrain. So this feeling of being tied up, of not even being able to go out on a walk and being confined to the four walls of my house creates panic in our minds. Once the panic starts, anxiety, tension and restlessness start building up, which in turn leads to several symptoms within our body such as palpitation and an increase in our heart rates," says Dr Suchismita Sinha, President of the Institute of Stress Management and faculty member of the Psychology Departement, Sarojini Naidu College for Women, Kolkata.
While the pandemic has affected people of all ages, races and socio-economic strata, there has been a significant rise in celebrity suicides since last year. Popular TV actors Kushal Punjabi, Sejal Sharma, Preksha Mehta and Sameer Sharma, as well as Bollywood actors Asif Basra and Sandeep Nahar, are just some from a long list of celebrities who passed away due to suicide since the lockdown started last year.
According to a study, the mental health needs of celebrities are complex and are often unaddressed due to several factors such as unwillingness to give up fame, mistrust, isolation, and character-splitting. Dr Sinha says, “Celebrities have a lot of things that they need to maintain in order to create an image such as a big house, cars, parties. All of these can be maintained as long as there is workflow. Once the lockdown comes and they realise that now the workflow will come down, they also realise that they cannot maintain the lifestyle. Going back to a lifestyle of a commoner becomes very difficult for them."
“What happens in the celebrity community is that many of them don’t have people with whom they can actually bond and talk about their mental health. A lot of them come from other cities and therefore, their families remain elsewhere. There is also this constant tension of competition and the stress of knowing there is always someone there to replace you. They start bottling these negative emotions inside. After a point of time, they are unable to bear with it and at first, this results in depression followed by suicidal ideations and finally suicide," adds Dr Sinha.
Sushant’s death had raised questions of creating more awareness regarding mental health since last year. However, just the mere knowledge about mental health problems cannot be considered keeping in mind the fact that Sushant himself created awareness about suicide in one of his films named ‘Chhichore’.
Dr Sinha says, “Actual awareness is something that you realise from the inside. Just reading newspapers and News shows and knowing what is depression is not awareness. When one realises that whenever I will be having such negative feelings I need to talk about it and that I should be aware enough to notice any behavioral changes of my family members within the last 20-25 days, that is awareness. If that is developed then suicidal rates can definitely come down to a great extent."
This news piece may be triggering. If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata).