Voices that matter help shed the stigma around mental health
The news of TV actors Kushal Punjabi and Sejal Sharma’s suicides have sent shock-waves. One thing that runs common through both incidents is that their friends and well-wishers claim that they had made plans to meet just a few days before they committed suicide. It’s true — mental health illnesses do have a fa(r)ce, and it’s a beautiful, smiling one.
Celebrities including Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt have publically talked about their battle with depression, opening the dialogue around the subject, which is still considered a taboo. In fact, Padukone took her fight to the global platform at World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, where she received the Crystal Award for her work on mental health. She was quoted as saying, “Mental illness happened to me when I had least expected it. I was at a professional high, my movies were doing great and I was in an amazing relationship. Everything was going just perfect. One morning when I woke up and I felt all was well, I fainted. Luckily the house help came and saw me on the floor. I was taken to a doctor and I was told it was nothing and probably just some blood pressure fluctuation or something like physical tiredness. Those were the first physical signs. For a long time, I just felt like sleeping, not going out, not meeting people.” She further added that the stigmas outweigh the need to seek professional help. “As I began on my path of recovery, I also understood the stigma attached with the mental health and the need to go public with it... I felt that I should do something to help others with their signs and symptoms and that was the reason for going public with my illness,” she added.
Designer Nikhil Thampi, whose Semicolon collection has been worn by many Bollywood celebrities, feels that support such as this lends a sense of validation to the purpose. The semicolon has come to be known as the universal symbol for solidarity against mental health issues, and his designs have been worn by actors such as Bhumi Pednekar, Radhika Apte and Kubbra Sait. “It was a big gamble. The topic is so sensitive, but the tremendous support and the congratulatory messages that we received have been nothing but overwhelming. Validation from celebrities is a big deal and would help other consumers to understand and support the cause. It’s a very celebratory collection as we wanted to make it very exciting and tell people that no matter what, you will be accepted. I am glad that people have understood the logic behind it and celebrated it,” he says.
In the entertainment industry, where tensions run high and unpredictability is the name of the game, how do actors cope? Talking to family and friends has been the unanimous solution that most actors we spoke to had to give.
“I’ve always talked to friends and family. I’ve realised when you open about it and share, you get a better perspective and are able to think about it objectively. It’s always mind over matter, so when you learn to understand that, it helps you get over any problems,” shares actor Mohit Malhotra.
For actor Shashank Vyas of Balika Vadhu fame, it was all about keeping a positive frame of mind. “Initially, when I came to Mumbai, I struggled for many months and gave more than a hundred auditions. I was low, but I kept myself motivated and my friends helped me, too. I had the clarity of thought and had a positive mental attitude,” he shares.
Actor Mrunal Jain feels that having the right people to look up to in the industry helps a lot. “I do have one friend who is like a mentor to me with whom I consult through my highs and lows. By sharing my issues, I get the right guidance and that has really helped me,” he says.
Actor Ssharad Malhotra went through a rough patch between 2011-2013 on both personal and professional fronts. “My health had deteriorated. Nothing was working out the way I wanted it to. It’s always better to talk to people rather than keeping it to yourself as you might end up harming yourself,” advises Ssharad.
We’ve seen how each time celebrities have raised this issue in public, the discussion over the topic has gained momentum. Dr Manish Jain, a Delhi-based psychiatrist, feels it helps the common people shed stigmas. “There’s a large section of society that doesn’t believe in the existence of psychiatric illnesses and the concept of seeking help. People have been coming to me just after seeing these actors talk about it. The first step to recovery is to accept; we tend to live in denial, thinking that it is some sort of weakness,” he says.
A Journey to Healing
Dr Manish Jain gives some tips to heal and cope
•Have some me time
•Maintain a healthy work-life balance
•Spend time with family and friends
•Seek professional help if these don’t help
•AASRA - 9820466726, 022 2754 6669
•COOJ Mental Health Foundation - 9822562522
•Samaritans Mumbai - 8422984528/29/30
•Sumaitri - 011 23389090
•SPIF - 8033037556
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