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How it took a celebrity death to talk about mental health and now back to ignoring it

08:01 AM Oct 10, 2020 | Dipthi Bhat

2020 has been a tough year for all of us. But for me, it began in 2019. I was not the person I used to be anymore. Probably because life happened? From job hunt to being diagnosed with PCOD to break-up and then losing my job – 2019 was a year full of ups and downs.

Perhaps this took a toll on my mental health to an extent that I even had suicidal thoughts. And the worst part of my suffering was that I had no one to talk to. I could not express what I felt at the time because I could not figure it out either. I even refrained from talking to my family and friends because I did not know how they'd react in the first place. I had several thoughts that always began with a "What if...?"

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I never sought help because I was scared to put my feelings out there.

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Even today, I have a lump in my throat when I write or talk it out. I spent at least a year of my life trying to figure out what I want and after constantly questioning myself - “Is this the kind of person I really want to be?” – I realised that I need to change the circumstances for me. Talk to someone. Talk to my friends. I realised I need to try. And that’s when my life slightly got better. I got a new job, talked to people, made good friends and most importantly I made an effort to socialise with people (which has never been easy for me).

I’m glad that I have found the courage to talk about my mental health. Because I think we need to talk…

Just when I felt slightly better about myself and my life, pandemic happened. A person who has always tried to distract herself by wandering around was made to sit at home for six months straight. Again, it is not easy but it is important to stay at home as the virus had spread like fire already. But I managed to keep myself busy with work, binged watched movies and TV shows, and cooked – all of this helped. Sometimes even keeping myself busy with other activities did not prove fruitful but I knew that I was in a better place than before. Things began to fall in place for me again, I thought.

You guys are probably wondering what exactly is the point of this article. Well, here’s the thing. As I managed to keep myself away from all the thoughts that I have had during the lockdown, news of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death made headlines. I was at work. I was broken. I loved him as an actor and admired his work. Moments later, we were told that he was suffering from depression. I did not know how to react. I just sat on my chair. I was numb. But I got myself together and worked for the next few hours. Soon after my shift, I had tears in my eyes. I felt all the emotions rushing in.

As I consoled myself, I received several messages from friends, saw posts on social media that read “If you want to talk to someone, please give me a call.” People suddenly started talking about mental health. I do appreciate the fact that people were talking about it but I was disappointed. Because…no, if I’m going through a tough time and it is affecting my mental health, I know for a fact that I won’t talk to people (which probably could be a bad idea. I don’t know?). And I’m sure there are others who’d back me up here.

I was disappointed because it took a celebrity death for people to start a conversation about it. I do agree that there are people who talk about it often. But isn’t mental health as important as other topics that we often talk about? It is, right?

Sushant’s death did spark a conversation about mental health and now, other angles that I’d rather refrain from talking about in this piece.

Following his death, several had bizarre opinions and claims that angered me. A person I know even told me that “Depression does not exist” “ab kya suicide hi option hai?” and more.

We have even heard people say that a scientific mind like Sushant would never commit suicide. The question is does a person's smartness or appearance justify his/her happiness or his mental condition?

A person suffering from a mental disorder is often burdened by his own thoughts. And one needs to get this straight - what looks good on the outside may not look good on the inside.

Just to be clear here, I don’t encourage suicides but I want to make a point. Depression exists. People suffer from depression and other mental health disorders. And it is not as easy as you may think to deal with it. Some people just don't handle it well even if they are trying their best. Is it that difficult to understand?

The stigma around this topic does no good to the person and only makes it worse for them. And unfortunately, negative beliefs towards people with mental disorder is quite common even now.

The media coverage was even bizarre.

Times Now’s Navika Kumar played clips of Sushant laughing and one can hear the anchor scream "Does he look depressed?"

"TIMES NOW has accessed 2 videos of Sushant Singh (dated January 2020) where there is no sign of depression on his face," the channel had tweeted.

No, ma’am, that is not how it works and you cannot tell if a person is depressed by just looking at his/ her face. As someone rightly said, “Don’t judge the book by its cover.”

While mental health was a lot discussed after Sushant passed away, now it just seems that other issues are more in light. And mental health now sits somewhere in the backseat. It is quite alarming, to be honest.

The last couple of months clearly tells us how one needs to be more aware of mental health. How one needs to accept that mental health disorder exists. How it needs to be discussed often. It is high time that we talk about it and not just when a celebrity dies. It is high time that we stop making a mockery of someone’s mental disorder and instead try to help that person out.

Trust me, the kind of crisis we are in – with job loss, WFH, financial crisis, and more – little we can do is be a nice person and help!

Even as time is tough, I see a small ray of hope! A hope that times will get better…

Dipthi Bhat is a web journalist at The Free Press Journal. Views expressed are personal.

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