Sushant Singh Rajput, the young and charismatic Bollywood actor, killed himself on June 14, at the age of 34. Investigations reveal that he had been under treatment for clinical depression for the last couple of months.
‘Depression got him too?’ I murmur to myself, as vivid recollections of my encounter with the illness flood my head. With a four-week baby to care for, I recall how skillfully I had managed to convince myself that the world would be so much better off without me. As I painstakingly shake those memories off, my mind goes back to Sushant.
With a friendly charm and sheepish smile, Sushant was the guy-next-door, who had set out to achieve impossible dreams. Yes, the same dreams that Indian society teaches us to never harbor, and worse, speak them aloud. But not only did he make it big in life, but he also instilled in all of us, a hope that we could too. And now that Sushant is gone, those dreams feel like crushed pieces of glass beneath my feet.
I did not know Sushant personally, but the fact that he was alive and healthy gave a sense of normalcy to my own life. And his death to suicide, makes me shudder. What was he thinking? How hard must he have fought before calling it quits? What if it was me and not him? Had I also been this close to death six years ago?
Depression is a serious mental illness with devastating physical and emotional outcomes, making it the single largest cause of disability worldwide. One in every 20 Indians suffers from depression, making India the most depressed country in the world. Moreover, the social stigma associated with mental disorders and their likening to ‘madness’ makes it harder for people to seek medical help.
Sushant’s untimely demise raises an important question – with all the desirable things we crave – looks, popularity, luxury– did Sushant really lack something? For haven’t we always believed that depression stems out of lack of something?
Even when Sushant’s possessions and early success may have differentiated him from the common Indian, the fact remains that in the end, we are all vulnerable human beings. We are social creatures, who need care, affection, and empathy. Class or social status plays no role here.
I just wish someone had known how ‘on-the-edge he was, so close to cracking up. But it’s easier said than done – depressed people hardly speak. They withdraw themselves, using the little energy they have in fighting battles only they can see. How can people come to our rescue without knowing that we are in trouble, or worse when we shoo them away?
I think it’s time we develop a sense of reading beyond the façade of the smile of all persons far and close, who cross our paths. We don’t need to be experts to do that – being human is enough. After all, it’s not about speaking at all. All we need to do is listen.
- Author is a journalist. He contributes on various topics including society, culture and education.