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Opinion: It’s OK not to be OK - Stigma surrounding mental illness

By: Tabassum Ashraf


Truth Arrived | Opinion: It’s OK not to be OK - Stigma surrounding mental illness - Tabassum Ashraf

There is endless darkness in these corridors of glitz and glamour, if you are not bullheaded it can consume you. Perception of failure and success changes here on every weekend. The relationships and loyalties are directly proportional to the box office accomplishment.

Recently the suicide of famous Bollywood actor Sushant Singh has probably opened the bin of worms and masses seem to be engulfed in discussions why he took such an abysmal step. There are people on social networking sites trying to fit in his shoes and give sermons and tirades of how he should have dealt with the situation. Imagine if Sushant had shared his condition publicly, he would have been laughed at, trolled or seen as attention seeking. Same people would have judged him if he was visiting a shrink or complained of depression or anything closer to do with Untreated Psychotic Disorders (Like Schizophrenia-no contact with reality, space, position, orientation etc.) or Untreated Depression (as people lose total hope of future, nor feel interest in life, feel miserable, alone and pathetic all the time).

Deepika Padukone was diagnosed with depression in 2014 and she considered herself lucky that her mother spotted her symptoms and urged her to look for medical intervention. Being the most successful Bollywood actress, she pushed through the fear of being judged. She broke silence and spoke about her battle against this invisible aliment. The feedback was mixed. Media portrayals of depression are not always humane. Actually, she tried to normalize depression by saying that she faced it at one point of time. Her ordeal was mocked as a result of her breakup with Ranbir Kapoor.

Our society has stigmatized anything to do with mental health that if you are visiting a psychotherapist, you could easily be labelled mad or lunatic. We often presume that big stars who are rich, famous and influential cannot have worries or anxieties. We all envy their extraordinary lives. We quite think it is impossible that you can be rich, beautiful, famous and everything going for you and still depressed. We want to consider them immune to suffering and ailments because they have all what we dream and aspire to.

Celebrities are lonelier even though they have hundreds of so-called friends and fans. They have followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms but they often fail to find sincere and trustworthy supportive pals. Although celebrities have families around but many are there who live on their own, there is this factor also, they feel deserted and secluded when they face any rejection or simply any challenge in life. They have no one to hold on to or seek support, then there is work and escalating expectations from everyone to present themselves flawless often takes a toll on their mental health. They are fighting tough battles at the personal and professional front. Still society will ask this question "Why does he or she want to die".

Jiya khan, one of the budding stars who ended her life in the same way. She felt so choked and helpless that she forgot that it was her dream to be here in this tinsel town and make her presence felt. Sense of hopelessness and loneliness was so strong that it did not deter her from killing herself along with her dreams. Schizophrenia consumed the beautiful Parveen Babi, the highest paid actress of her time. she ended dying in her flat lonely, depressed, with hallucinations of self-destructive command. She complained of hearing or seeing different people conspiring to kill her. She even named likes of Amitabh Bachchan plotting to kill her. Precisely Mental health issues are not new to Bollywood.

India has the highest number of suicide rate in the world. Almost one lakh people kill themselves in India every year. It is impossible to understand from the outlook of celebrities what they must be undergoing. Beneath the stardom they might be suffering which we will never get to know. People yet fail to understand that physical and medical health are co-related. Many a times people confront this sinister thought to commit suicide; but if there is someone just to listen and stand by at that weak moment there is a strong possibility that a life can be saved. Life is unpredictable. We sometimes don’t get what we desire and we feel that this the end of journey and in a jiffy contemplate suicide.

Unfortunately success is gauged by the fame, wealth and beauty but in recent years it has become more evident that excess wealth ,fame sometimes gets one stressed, depressed and other vices become part of life.To claim our lives in this materialistic world we need to normalize, humanize and destigmatize mental illness not just for ourselves but celebrities as well.Lastly people suffering from any sort of depression just need to talk and communicate. Celebrities are no different. Nobody deserves to hide their struggles from the fear of social rejection, discrimination and judgement. There should be total empathy for anyone who is going through mental health difficulties. Let’s make an effort that depression should be viewed as just any other physical ailment.


The author is a journalist based in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. She writes for Truth Arrived.

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