When model Viveka Babajee's body was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her home, images of the pretty faces of models Nafisa Joseph and Kuljeet Randhawa, who had also committed suicide, came rushing back to many.
Recently, there has been a spate of suicides by models in the West too. But while most modeling agencies abroad have in-house psychologists who can help models in times of distress, there is no such arrangement in India. Psychiatrists and glamour industry insiders believe it is time that model training institutes, contest organisers and agencies incorporate an 'emotional health' module to help models understand the profession better and cope with its highs and lows.
"Along with grooming looks, the institutes should also teach models to make their inner self stronger," said psychiatrist Dr Fabian Almeida. Models felt it is especially important for them to be made aware of the short shelf life in the industry. According to industry sources, female models can't bank on assignments for more than 10 years and male models last only four to five years.
"When we were just starting out, nobody really sat us down and gave us advice. When you taste success early, and then suddenly see a decline, it hits you. But it's important to realise that the five-star hotels, the foreign trips and the designer goods are temporary," said model Bhavna Sharma.
Many felt a support system is crucial when a model's career is over and before he/she settles down with marriage or another profession. "It is important for models to have close friends," said Dr Almeida.
"Beyond the pretty faces, you don't see the turmoil that the person is going through," said Pallavi Symons, a make-up artiste and former model. Babajee was not only dealing with turmoil in her personal life, but also struggling to establish her event management company. Models such as Mehr Jesia and Shvetha Jaishankar, who have successfully crossed over from the ramp to the board room, are few.
Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who works closely with the entertainment industry, stressed the need for a policy to govern the glamour business to ensure financially security. "Other professions provide provident fund and gratuity. But models have no safety net," he said. Mistry added that a large insurance firm had started offering a savings scheme for models but not many know about it.
(Inputs from Neha Bhayana)