The death of Sushant Singh Rajput has not hit me hard because I was a huge fan, or even followed his work at all. In truth, I barely followed him or his work.
Yet hit me it has, mainly because he was 34, five years younger than I am, who, it seems, felt like the only thing better than breathing another moment, was never to breathe again. That was how hopeless he felt.
When things like this happen to celebrities there is often a slew of opinions: preaching positivity, detachment and the benefits of meditation or yoga, of gratitude, and many other such things that are great in principle – but ineffective in reality.
Nobody who suffers from or struggles with depression can just cheer up. Nobody who struggles with anxiety can just calm down.
More positivity, more gratitude, changes in perspective, yoga, meditation and all those other wonderful things can benefit people who are already in relatively healthy mindsets. They may help some in people who are struggling, but in others it will just remind them of failure.
Of failure to be positive, failure to be happy, failure to be able to meditate it all the way. And in that space of darkness, those small small failures can be the boundary between life and death.
Don’t you think if it were easy for them to cheer up or calm down, or be positive, they would just do it and be done?
Depression and anxiety are strange beasts, because alongside feeding on your sanity, they feed on the way you feel about yourself. Nobody is proud to have depression. Nobody is proud to suffer from panic attacks.
Those of us who struggle with these things seek to hide them away. Someone once told me that I shouldn’t tell men I would like to date that I’ve struggled with self-harm. It is not something people want to know about.
If that brief moment of my life was too much for someone, can you imagine how difficult it would be for people to speak about ongoing mental illness?
Depression (“but you have so much going for you!”), or anxiety (“no need to stress so much about everything!”), let alone things like bipolar disorder and other less known illnesses, are not as cut and dry as a scraped knee, which simply needs some antiseptic and a bandaid.
They are much more complicated than that.
What if we were to show people our vulnerabilities in public spaces and get comfortable speaking about them? What if we were to acknowledge that not all is wonderful, that some of us shed tears for no reason, some of us can’t bring ourselves to get out of bed in the morning, and for some of us, loneliness and rejection leaves us feeling so hollow that we can’t remember that this too, shall pass, and that we might smile again?
If we showcase our wins, should we not have the courage to share our losses? Because maybe, just maybe, we can help someone feel that it’s okay that they’re struggling. It’s okay while some are achieving milestone after milestone, that they can only just manage to get dressed? That it’s okay to not be okay?
What if we were to share all those times we have sought help, because it was all too much to handle on our own? What if we weren’t ashamed to say we spoke to someone because we didn’t know what to do next?
This is particularly important during the lockdown, when our screens are almost our only connection to the outside world. What we see can lift us up, make us feel supported, or it can plunge us deeper into darkness.
Understanding that it’s okay to speak to someone will not cure someone of anxiety or depression, the way quality mental healthcare might, but it may make them feel supported enough to seek help. And in that space where all other options seem closed, where all hope seems lost, perhaps a small ray of light might emerge.
That light may save their life. Of course it still may not be enough, but it is better than nothing right?
There are so many devoted mental health professionals helping people struggling during this time, but until someone initiates the conversation, there is no way to know that they need help.
The irony about mental health is the onus is on the person to get themselves help. Unlike a physical accident where someone can see a bleed, or an illness where there are symptoms.
The only person that can truly understand that there is a mental health issue is the person who is suffering. And the very nature of these illnesses makes it difficult to get help.
I don’t know what Sushant Singh Rajput went through in those last moments, but whatever pain he had couldn’t be scratched out by a change in perspective or some positivity. Whatever haunted him was not simply a low mood, or frown to be turned upside down.
It was more powerful than he was, and when you’re up against that kind of fight, you can’t just brush it off and cheer up.
You need something a little stronger than that.