#Opinion

On Sushant Singh Rajput’s Birthday: An Important Lesson On Mental Health

Sushant Singh Rajput’s Birthday, dil bechara
It’s Sushant Singh Rajput’s birthday today and we can’t stop thinking about how his death made us all realise the importance of addressing mental health issues. The actor would have turned 36 this year. Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide on June 14, 2020 at his apartment in Mumbai.

The actor gave us many memorable performances in movies including Kai Po Che, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Kedarnath, Chhichhore, Raabta and Dil Bechara.

Trigger warning: The article talks about mental health and suicide.

The investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death revealed that the actor was suffering from mental health issues for which he was also seeking professional help. However, he didn’t open up about his mental health struggles on social media or interviews, perhaps due to the stigma surrounding them both in our society and the film industry.

His 2019 film Chhichhore discussed the pressures of academic performance on students and the toll it has on their impressionable  minds. The movie’s portrayal of mental health was highly appreciated for the realistic and truthful characterisation of a student’s life. A year later, the same audience could see Rajput’s struggles reflect in the film.

Rajput’s therapist, Susan Walker, revealed about the actor’s deteriorating mental health as he suffered from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. She mentioned in her interview with journalist Barkha Dutt, “The continuing, appalling stigma around mental illness makes it very difficult for patients and their families to reach out. This has to stop.”

Walker stressed the need of accepting mental health issues to treat them, “People with mental illnesses and their families need to feel safe from discrimination so that they can get the treatment and support and acceptance they need. There is no shame in having a mental illness. Should one feel ashamed of having cancer? Mental illness can be treated, it is often the shame of having such an illness that can drive people to suicide. Along with the absolute torment of being in the grip of an illness that affects the ways our minds and emotions work.”

Looking back at the musings he posted on his social media, one could reflect on what could have been a cry for help which was overlooked by his stardom. The actor wrote in a post, “To understand, and to be understood, is all we ever asked for…”

Mental health is a complex subject. Even the people we think are having the best contemplate about things that are worst in their lives.

Even after more than a year of his death, when Sushant Singh Rajput comes up in conversations, we come across questions like why did he do what he did? What was bothering him so much? Why a person loved by so many decided to call it quits? And we try to assert our conjectures over these questions for we have no absolute answers for them.

Very often, when a person dies, a lot of ifs and buts are left for others to unravel. It is once we lose a person, we realise how important it is to have some conversations already so we don’t look for answers when they are gone.

The actor was found posting a lot of his self-musing, thoughts and even his dream-list on his social media accounts. In a Twitter post, he referred to the stigma of male mental health as he encouraged men to let out emotions instead of holding them in. “Men have emotions too so don’t be shy to cry. It’s okay to let it out and not hold it inside. It’s not a weakness but a sign of strength. Be man enough to feel. Feeling is human.” The actor wrote.

Yet a year and a half later, we find ourselves struggling to make space for the elephant in the room all over again. Everybody was talking about mental health, putting up stories to reach out to each other as long as the matter made headlines in the news; but now after a year and a half, we’re back to square one: Unbothered about our mental health.

This cycle needs to be broken to make sure we REALLY don’t have another person ending up the way Sushant Singh Rajput did. Maybe this will be our tribute to his legacy as he looks down upon us radiating his warmth over us!

Views expressed by the author are their own.