Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death has made people realise how mental health plays an important part in everyone's life. As the topic trends on social media, it has kickstarted a long-due conversation on mental health of actors in the film industry.
Rajput’s battle with depression for the past six months and then his death have put the spotlight on the role of mental health care in lives of celebrities. Many personalities have spoken up since Sunday to underline that the society needs to take mental health as seriously as physical health and without waiting for a moment of crisis.
Many from the industry like Shruti Hassan, Priyanka Chopra, Mahesh Bhatt, and Deepika Padukone expressed their grief on social media handles and stressed on the importance of mental health.
Film director Mahesh Bhatt drew attention to the mental health crisis saying that the society has not equipped itself to deal with it. “This monumental tragedy that has hit the nation hard with the passing of Sushant screams out just one message. When it comes to the area of mental health we are not equipped to deal with the storm that will erupt right from the ground beneath our feet,” he said.
This monumental tragedy that has hit the nation hard with the passing of Sushant screams out just one message. When it comes to the area of mental health we are not equipped to deal with the storm that will erupt right from the ground beneath our feet. pic.twitter.com/Bk7WsKQGdY— Mahesh Bhatt (@MaheshNBhatt) June 15, 2020
Soon after the news of the actor’s suicide and depression started spreading, many from the film fraternity urged people to be more sensitive and be available to their close ones who might be suffering from within.
"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," actor Deepika Padukone wrote in an Instagram post.
Psychologist Padma Rewari says, “This is a wakeup call to all mental health specialist on how we keep this platform active by creating awareness 24/7 through various promotional channels, movies on display of positive sides to interventions and encouraging them to reach out. This should move out of conference discussions as well. Implementation is the need of the hour.”
A celebrity’s life is always in public eye, so it gets very difficult for them to reach out in the fear of being scrutinised. This is especially true for actors whose fortunes change with a release of a movie. Situations have become even worse with the lockdown with no shoots happening and stress increasing. Rewari says, “Keeping their work schedules, long working hours and varied life style in mind, production houses should make it mandatory to recruit mental health team or professionals in work zones for easy access of services. It’s the need of the hour.”
Experts underline that people need to watch out for symptoms in themselves or other for behavioural pattern that is not normal. Symptoms could be sudden emotional outbursts, disturbed sleep patterns, sudden change in behaviour – such as being withdrawn, over eating or no urge to eat, not consciously maintaining hygiene, seeking solace in excessive drinking, smoking etc.
We seem to have progressed as a society, but we still lack the openness when it comes to mental health and this block in the mind needs to change, says Psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria. “Gone are the days when we did not have awareness of mental illness or reaching out to professionals. If there is a physical illness, people easily go to a doctor and don’t mind spending that money. When it comes to mental health, we tend to neglect thinking it’s a phase and this turns chronic, which leads to complications which could have been treated with the right measures in time,” she explains.
Commenting on the death of Rajput, Chhabria says, “What happens when you are a public figure is that there is a lot of stigma attached to mental health and hence, they keep their grief to themselves. There are also a lot of myths attached to mental health that strong people cannot get depressed or if you are famous you cannot get depressed. But depression is exactly like COVID, anyone can get affected by it. It is time we work on eradicating the stigma attached to it.”
It’s definitely lonely at the top because people who reach there are extremely intelligent and some of them are sensitive too along with being perfectionists, and that combination becomes a little tricky, adds Chhabria. “The problem of being a celebrity or a public figure is you cannot just have a bad day and walk out because you have people who are always watching you and it all comes on social media. The other thing is the trolling that happens; everybody has an opinion on a celeb’s life. People who are close to the celebrity should realise that there is a human being behind the public image that he has and keep a close watch on signs of distress,” she says.
Experts say lockdown also has its own impact on the human mind, not only because of economic stress, but there are people who are wondering how to come out of it and there may be post-traumatic stress disorders as well. Staying alone is yet another issue as there is no one to monitor you. This affects not only actors and directors, but also the huge number of daily wage earners in Bollywood who have been out of job because of the pandemic. Organisations like CINTA has been doing their bit, but it is obvious that the uncertainty is getting to a lot of these people.