The Open Dialogue On Mental Health That India Needs – Celebrities Speak Up

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Sushant Singh Rajput’s death has opened up a much-needed conversation about mental health in India. There has been an active willingness to not only share personal stories by people who’ve experienced mental health issues, but also to try and understand mental health better by everyone. 

According to WHO, over 90 million Indians suffer from mental health issues, and this number will only increase during and after the lockdown.

Celebrities Have Been Opening Up And Encouraging A Dialogue On Mental Health

Deepika Padukone, who has been vocal about her battle with depression in the past, has been sharing posts on how “Depression is an illness” like any other.

Actor and comedian Danish Sait took to Twitter to open up about his mental health. Revealing that he has been regularly going to therapy and taking anti-depressants for the last three years, he stressed the need to normalise asking for help, therapy, and medication for mental health. Comparing a “broken mind” to a “broken hand”, he says that just as the latter needs a professional to fix it, so does the “broken mind” need professional help.

Deepika replied to his tweet saying “It is extremely heartening to see so many of you coming out and sharing your experience with mental illness.” She went on to discourage people from sharing details of their mental health medication, saying, “”However, I would recommend not naming the medication you are on and/or the specifics of the dosage. Simply because: (1) It is not a one rule fits all. (2) The information could potentially be misused.”

Several media personalities, celebrities, and influencers have come forward with their personal mental health struggles, while several others are spreading awareness.

Shashi Tharoor emphasised how “those who have not endured mental illness have no idea what its victims are going through”.

This has been made clear by the invasive, insensitive, and almost voyeuristic manner in which the news of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death has been reported and responded to over the past few days. He shared an excerpt written by David Foster Wallace who “we lost to depression in 2008”.

City editor of The Indian Express, Rahul Sabharwal, tweeted, “The conversation about mental health in India is miles from where it should be. Many people mourning Sushant’s death today snigger and gossip when someone known to them sees a shrink.”

Bipasha Basu emphasised the need to normalise acknowledging and learning to deal with mental illness from a young age.”Mental health is something that needs to be taken seriously in our country. The Society and families need to understand when one needs help and how to help them. Meditation should be taught as a compulsory subject to kids right from the age we start teaching them,” she tweeted.

Popular Indian children’s comic Amar Chitra Katha posted a portrait of Sushant Singh Rajput, with a note highlighting the severity of the issue of mental health and the need to give it the attention that’s due to it. The post encourages its audience to seek help if they need it, and reach out to help those who might need it. “In case you need someone to listen, our DMs are always open,” ends the post.

Such posts can expose an entire generation of children to the realities of mental illness, and an early awareness when it comes to understanding and dealing with it.

Speaking Up Is Necessary – Don’t Diminish Anyone’s Attempt To Be Vulnerable And Vocal

These stories have also been met with criticism on how the celebrities are cashing in on a “trending” issue, and how the advice is “elitist” and hypocritical. Comedian Vir Das commented, “It is hugely ironic to see journalists and media houses who relish, enjoy, and milk the failure of every project now write articles about mental health and positivity.”

Access to treatment and the resources to afford it are also not available to a large portion of the population.

However, these celebrities have a massive outreach, and no matter the motivation behind the vulnerability, any attempt at normalising conversations about mental health can go a long way in giving people the courage to seek help, and change people’s regressive attitudes towards mental illness.

It is unfair to dismiss and diminish anyone’s decision to be vulnerable and vocal on such issues. Speaking up and spreading awareness on mental health can never be done too much or too loudly.

If you’re experiencing mental distress or deteriorating mental health, you can access at-home therapy at Betterlyf.com or Manastha.com.

You can also call distress helplines provided by The Health Collective India.

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Sanjana writes far too little to call herself a writer and reads far too much pop-culture fiction to call herself a reader. She once received a Special Mention for the Best Young Critic Award by MAMI, and refuses to stop talking about it. Her love for films, art, and theatre runs deep and is only borderline pretentious. She detests writing in third person but can be convinced to engage in it occasionally.

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