Sushant Singh Rajput's death has put spotlight on awareness, treatment of mental...

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MS Dhoni, Chhichhore and Kai Po Che fame actor, Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide has shaken India. A man known to the world for his intellect, burning ambition and infectious energy was said to have been battling depression for the past six months. Mental health issues should be accorded priority over career and social acceptance, and those facing them should seek help from professionals, experts have said as people come to terms with the death of the Bollywood actor, who breathed his last at the age of 34.

The death of Rajput, one of the most talented actors in the current era of the Hindi film industry, has once again brought to the fore issues related to mental health care which are often ignored or not openly discussed in the society. Rajput, who was found hanging in his Bandra apartment on Sunday, was battling depression, police have said. Acceptance of mental illness, community-level awareness, communication and reaching out to people for help hold key to overcoming a disorder which has emerged as a silent killer, experts have said.

Dr Sheetal Bidkar, clinical psychologist, addiction therapist at Suasth One Step Clinic and Suasth Hospital, said, Our openness to counselling and visits to mental health professionals will lessen suffering.” “Seek professional help and be open with the treatment plan. Be OK with medicines as no one chooses to be stressed,” Bidkar said.

Prioritise mental health care over exam, career or social acceptance, she said.

The clinical psychologist called for ending the stigma attached to mental health, which often prevents its victims to openly talk about it and seek help.

“Continuous care is the key to long-term recovery.

Anyone can have stress...so avoid stigma and calling these people weak-minded etc,” Bidkar said.

Explaining how stress, which can cause mental health problems, works on human body, she said, Stress has to be taken seriously as it alters peoples physical, emotional, behavioural and cognitive state.

“Quality of sleep, change in weight, digestion problems, poor concentration, poor judgment, racing thoughts, use of alcohol or other substances, isolation, neglecting responsibilities, nervous behaviors and moodiness, loneliness, feeling depressed are a few symptoms of stress.

Bidkar said many surveys have suggested that more than 85 per cent of people (respondents) have experienced stress in their lives.

“No one wants to talk about it. Chronic stress is capable of pushing one towards breakdown,” she cautioned.

According to Prakriti Poddar, expert in mental health at MD Poddar Foundation, Community-level awareness about mental health conditions is important, more so because it allows the affected person to lean on a support system that may prevent him/her from taking extreme step.” In these times of extreme stress and isolation, depression is likely to affect more people than in usual times, Poddar said.

Depression is a disease that may not have a manifestation at all. If at all it chooses to show, the signs are unlike any disease, which makes us miss the red flags.

“It is difficult to gauge exactly what must be going through the person’s mind before they decide to take such an extreme step, but usually it is a deep sense of hopelessness, very high level of stress and inability to face the troubles of life, said Poddar.

Ravi Godse, filmmaker and physician, said mental health care should be given the importance it deserves.

Mental well-being is not as important as physical well-being; it is more important. Like coronavirus, it is hidden and that makes it dangerous. In India, there is a taboo about mental health diagnoses, said Godse.

Several Bollywood celebrities also took to their social media handles to share the importance of mental health care including Anil Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Sandeep Khosla.

Anil Kapoor tweeted, “I didn’t know him personally, but I’ve watched his films and it was clear to see how talented he was... The fact is, we never really know what anyone is feeling in the deep recesses of their hearts. If you feel like you’re drowning please please please reach out to someone you trust, whether that is a friend, family member or a professional.”

Sushant’s PK co-star and actor-producer Anushka Sharma, wrote that it was devastating that the Kai Po Che actor couldn’t get the help he needed. “Sushant, you were too young and brilliant to have gone so soon. I’m so sad and upset knowing that we lived in an environment that could not help you through any troubles you may have had. May your soul rest in peace,” she wrote, adding in another tweet, “I urge everyone to respect their emotions and let them grieve.”

Deepika Padukone wrote, “As a person who has had a lived experience with mental illness, I cannot stress enough about the importance of reaching out. Talk. Communicate. Express. Seek help. Remember, you are not alone. We are in this together. And most importantly, there is hope.”

Director and screenwriter Zoya Akhtar said she hopes people soon realise the importance of mental health and treat those in need with utmost care. She wrote on Instagram, “You have gone too soon and all we can do is make sure you haven’t gone in vain. May we realise the importance of mental health. May we treat depression and anxiety with the care it needs. May we be there for those around us who could be suffering. May we always remember that you gave us more than you took I wish you eternal peace.”

Rajput’s death has stirred up conversations and debates on social media about the loneliness outsiders face in Bollywood, how the industry doesn’t include them, the pressures of failure and success as a celebrity, and many have been calling out Karan Johar on social media for not reaching out to Sushant.

(With inputs from PTI)

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