Mental Health: No one should suffer in silence

Amid the raging debate over the death of a 34 years old Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who was alleged to be depressed before he died by suicide. Mental health specialists say suicide is a very complex public health problem globally, and prevalent cultural and social beliefs make it difficult for people to seek psychiatric help.

Sushant was found hanging in his residence on June 14th morning by his domestic help, which left Bollywood and his fans worldwide shocked. He was reportedly battling depression over the past few months and undergoing treatment. Soon after the news of Sushant committing suicide surfaced there was a deluge of online searches related to him.

Sushant’s devoted fans as well as his colleagues took to social media to express their sentiments and vent their anger at a system, they believe failed him. He was known for films like “Kedarnath”, “Chhichhore” and “MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.” He is survived by his father and four elder sisters.

The social isolation that happened during Covid-19 pandemic has impacted a lot of people with the feeling of loneliness, and it is important to begin having conversations on mental health.

According to Dr Samir Parikh, Director of Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare in India, depression is an illness that is characterised by periods (of two weeks or more continuously) in which an individual experiences low moods, lack of interest, reduction in pleasure in activities, tiredness or fatigue, poor concentration, changes in sleep and appetite, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness or even thought of self-harm (in severe forms of the illness).

“When a person’s functioning is affected and these symptoms are present it is important to seek help,” Parikh said, adding that treatment can involve a combination of or individually the utilisation of medicines and psychotherapy.

“It is also important that people focus on self-care, identify if there are errors in their thinking, determine ways to manage emotional functioning, seek support in friends and family and most importantly talk about the struggle they may have and not hesitate because of the stigma or misconceptions that surround mental health problems,” he said.

“It is important to understand suicidal behaviour and different risk factors for suicide. There is no straightforward algorithm to predict suicide. One should develop understanding of psychological, sociological, and biological factors which will help to detect individuals who are at high risk and decide on treatment selection,” said Ashish Pakhre, Psychiatrist and an alumnus of AIIMS, India.

Pakhre added that the existing social and cultural trends make people take pessimistic stands to discuss their inner psychological pain and Rajput’s death by suicide has brought out the mental health issue, which never got the attention it deserved.

Samir Parikh, added that, mental health has been stigmatised for a long time, and people have been hesitant in talking about it. “Mental health needs to be made a global priority.”

“We need to collectively work towards creating a sensitive and empathetic environment and end the stigma around mental health so that people can seek help. It’s time to look at a National Suicide Prevention Policy,” he added.

Vasan Srinivasan, Chairman of Mental Health Foundation of Australia said: “An awful lot goes through during the turbulent times. Those who have not endured mental illness have no idea what the victims are going through. Because of the ignorant and the insensitive people, the process of finding support is difficult. Also, mental illness is not something that can get self-corrected, it can cure once diagnosed and treated. The Australia government understands it and offers full support through various foundations nation-wide to anyone who may need help with mental health.”

Melbourne’s Jiwanpreet, a senior registered migration consultant, a blogger and a mom who also is raised in the same town as Sushant Singh Rajput said:

“Deeply dismayed by the loss,” and emphasises on how depression can have serious ramifications on the psychological growth of a child. Invisible to the naked eye, the feelings of anxiety and fear are sufficient to impair their social and personal functioning. The onset of mental illness among children is related with poor outcomes; interfering with their ability to focus, lose interest in pleasurable activities, poor impulse control, vocal outbursts, a slump in academic performance, separation, thoughts of suicide, appetite and social withdrawal.

Jiwanpreet recommends modelling ways of parenting, spending extra time with kids and asking questions more often can cut down breeding anxiety in children.

Film actress Sushmita Sen said: “When something tragic happens, we are very quick to blame somebody because it is so painful that we want to blame somebody very quickly in the whole blame game, nobody actually ends up helping anybody,” added the mother of two.

In her strong-worded message, Sushmita asked her fans to never quit in life, to keep fighting till the end and to always seek help when in need. She put the post with an image reading out: “Protect your peace”.

Disregarding mental illness is like courageously walking into the unknown wild without a set of rules, instructions and maps that tells you what to do. But if we take time out to introspect and ask others about their mental hygiene, we can potentially contribute towards the well-being of others. By simply starting up a dialogue or expressing that we care, we can support each other, get the help we all need and start feeling better. It is essential to take disclosure practice seriously and protect yourself, family and friends.

By Charul Singla and Agencies