June 14, Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Bandra residence in Mumbai. He was 34. Reports suggested that the actor had died by suicide.
Soon after the report of his death, the conversation around mental health started on social media as people found it difficult to wrap their heads around the fact that a young successful actor could end his life.
Multiple investigative agencies – the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, the Narcotics Control Bureau – are probing the death case, which had triggered a debate on mental health issues. The NCB, which is probing the drugs angle in the death case, on Friday arrested Rhea Chakraborty’s brother Showik and Sushant Singh Rajput’s house manager Samuel Miranda after conducting early morning raids at their homes.
This, after Rajput’s family in Bihar accused his friend – Rhea Chakraborty – of mentally harassing him and driving Him to suicide. Thereafter, the Supreme Court to direct all evidence to the CBI for an ‘impartial’ probe.
Meanwhile, many took to social media and appeared on news channels and said that the actor did not “look” or “behave” like someone who had mental health issues.
Along with all these came the stigmatised idea of mental health and spoke volumes on lack of awareness.
READ: Sushant Singh Rajput’s Suicide Makes Hush-Hush Conversation on Depression Loud on Social Media
India reported a 3.4% increase in death caused by suicides in the year 2019, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In 2019, India registered around 381 suicides daily. The rate of suicide (incidents per 1 lakh population) rose by 0.2 per cent in 2019 over 2018, with suicide rates in cities being at an all-time high, as per the data.
While the data reports the major causes of suicide in India, ironically enough, mental illness finds no mention.
Yet, a 2018 report by India Today, the World Health Organisation said that India is the most depressed country in the world. According to the same report, at least 6.5% people in India suffer from some sort of mental health disorder; the number is bound to have increased by now. Even then, access to mental health care remains sparse.
Another study, albeit based in the United States, showed that people suffering depression and anxiety had seen a sudden spike during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In the latest study to suggest an uptick, half of U.S. adults surveyed reported at least some signs of depression, such as hopelessness, feeling like a failure, or getting little pleasure from doing things. That’s double the rate from a different survey two years ago.
READ: Depression and Anxiety Spiked Most in Young Adults During Pandemic, Finds Study
The study did not ask about any diagnosis they might have received, and for many people, the problem is mostly angst rather than full-blown psychiatric illness. But experts say the feeling is genuine and deserving of professional help. For some people, it stems from lost loved ones and the financial distress and social isolation the outbreak has caused.
READ: A Looming Threat of Coronavirus, Suicide Prevention Helplines Are Getting More Calls
The pandemic has made it worse for people already with mental health issues. A study published in the Jama Psychiatry journal shows that efforts to reduce human contact to a minimum to spread the infection from spreading may eventually flatten the curve and slow down the virus, but it may pose another issue which might be a little more complicated to deal with – a surge in suicides.
Not just celebrities, there has also been a spike in suicides among farmers in the last year. According to a report by The New Indian Express, the number of suicides in Andhra Pradesh alone went up from 664 in 2018 to 1029 last year.
Despite all the definitive data, there’s no definite means to tackle the mental health challenge that India faces. There is still an acute shortage of mental health professionals in India; even then, mental health care continues to be unaffordable for many.
The rate of suicide has increased in India in the last two years, and the pandemic has not made things easier. Even with this data in hand, why is it still so difficult to believe that mental health is a very real, very worrisome problem in India?
(This news piece may be triggering. If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata).)