File photo | Sushant Singh Rajput | Facebook/SushantSinghRajput
File photo | Sushant Singh Rajput | Facebook/SushantSinghRajput
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When I wrote on nepotism in Bollywood following actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate death two months ago, I had no idea about the proverbial can of worms that was waiting to be cracked open. The case has quickly switched tracks from the suicide of an actor and nepotism in the Mumbai film industry to one of murder and criminal conspiracy. Soon, behind-the-scenes police procedurals and political shenanigans began to play out. However, one of the most disturbing aspects has been the distorted conversation around the subject of mental health and people’s cavalier attitude towards it.

Since word got out in June that the actor’s death by suicide was presumably an outcome of depression, a hasty, insensitive, and ill-informed discussion on mental illness followed, worsening matters for those facing similar issues. Instead of shining a light on mental health, the ongoing debate is more likely to put fear and shame back into those with mental health concerns. What is alarming is the manner in which the discourse has reinforced a damning subliminal message and the underlying implication that a person suffering from mental health is doomed, and even likely to take the extreme step sooner or later.

Not a single debate has addressed the problem of safety of those with mental illness, from being vulnerable to victimisation due to lack of awareness on the subject, to the dearth of adequate social and medical infrastructure when it comes to their involvement in contentious legal matters.

A mental health patient is already on weak grounds as the narrative surrounding a person suffering from mental health issues can be completely turned on its head on flimsy grounds, such as him/her being ‘paranoid’ or ‘delusional’.


Also read: Sushant Rajput death is BJP’s chance to finish brand Aaditya Thackeray, after Rahul Gandhi


Distorted narrative

The fact that the ‘woke brigade’ is leading this charge only makes matters worse. Producers Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt’s statement on Sushant Singh Rajput may have set the ball rolling, but it is the media, as well as the medical fraternity represented by therapists (those who were treating Sushant), who have done the biggest disservice to the millions suffering from complex mental health issues.

Susan Walker Moffat, Sushant’s former therapist, spoke to the media about his confidential medical history in order to ‘clear misconceptions’ regarding his medical health, and give the prime accused — his rumoured girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty — a clean chit. Ironically, her actions might have done more harm than good, because this could possibly be a huge setback for the confidence of those seeking professional help for mental health issues.

Varkha Chulani, the well-known clinical psychologist and psychotherapist from Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai, and Associate Fellow & Supervisor, The Albert Ellis Institute, New York City, USA says, “I know it sounds radical but we have very little faith in our professionals. We will always assume ‘bad’ intent. Now with this disclosure people will be more weary. Yes, it has caused more skepticism around confidentiality.”


Also read: Suicides see a sharp rise in Kolkata amid lockdown, over half are 40 years or younger


A silent epidemic

This would be a good time to remind ourselves that according to the National Mental Health Survey (NMHS), 15 per cent of Indian adults “are in need of active interventions for one or more mental health issues”. Even though we might not admit it, mental health problems seem to be the elephant in the room — a matter we seldom address adequately. And perhaps insensitive TV news debates are symptomatic of what really ails us when it comes to matters of the mind.

The general TV reportage that uses smiling photos of people as proof of them not being depressed is ill-informed and misleading. To expect a person suffering from mental health issues to be sitting around looking glum and depressed all the time is facile. This skewed representation only reinforces stereotypes, and underlines how difficult and problematic it is to suffer from mental health issues in India.

“Stigma and discrimination are common experiences persons with mental health issues report,” says Paulomi Sudhir, professor at the department of clinical psychology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS). “They also report possible disadvantages in occupational or social/personal domains of life. However, with increasing reports on mental health issues in recent years, there is a gradual increase in acceptance at workplaces and in society as well. Many organisations have initiated mental wellness activities and sensitisation programmes amongst their workforce in order to reduce stigma, delay in treatment, and discrimination.” This is indeed good news, but it is something that seems to have escaped public discourse.

The difficulties of those suffering from mental health issues in India are compounded by the low number of specialists and scant resources allocated to creating awareness. “Unfortunately, India’s idea about the ‘mind’ is still in a very basic and nascent stage. Indians don’t acknowledge that the driver of all action is what lies between our ears. So whether it’s neurology or psychology, anything to do with the brain doesn’t go down well with them,” explains Chulani. “It’s like the brain is not a part of their own bodies. As if it is a separate part of their being, which is something to be ashamed of, or avoided.”


Also read: Enraged over Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide? Students dying in Kota’s IIT, IAS factories too


Perpetuation of stigma

Nobody has once considered the fact that those suffering from mental illness could be more vulnerable to internal confusion. And the most terrifying of all, that they are burdened with shame at the thought of what others will think if they knew their mind was experiencing some ‘chemical locha’, often believed to be the cause of delusional or suicidal thoughts. As we know, shame and fear are a lethal combination when it comes to making people suffer and cover up mental health issues. Sometimes, it leads to them overcompensating for their issues.

Recently, television actor Sameer Sharma was found dead in his apartment in Mumbai, in what is suspected to be a suicide. Ironically, he had been putting up a stout defence of those facing mental health problems on social media just a few days before his death. It was a good time to table issues pertaining to mental health. And yet, they did not come to the forefront at all.

In the spate of sensational headlines and TV news segments that have emerged in the aftermath of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, what is worrying is the fact that no ‘expert’ bothered to point out that with the right medication, therapy, and care, patients can — and do — recover. Actor Deepika Padukone underwent treatment for her depression, and recovered from it under the caring and watchful gaze of her family and competent healthcare specialists. She is a good example of how the right kind of attention can heal a person. “Anxiety disorders, depression, and other common mental health disorders, in particular, have evidence-based therapies available that show a considerable promise in terms of treatment response/outcomes. However, this is also determined by adherence to these treatments,” says professor Sudhir.

Instead of addressing Rajput’s case with the compassion and responsibility it deserves, the tone of the narrative was set by the likes of Mukesh Bhatt, who said he “saw (Rajput’s death) coming (because) Sushant was going the Parveen Babi way”, suggesting that those who suffer from mental health issues are doomed.


Also read: Burden of being a son in toxic Bihari families — What Sushant Singh Rajput’s death tells us


Sushant’s fear wasn’t misplaced

Those who want #JusticeForSushant seem to sidestep the questions surrounding his mental health, while those on the other side of the fence find a convenient excuse in it. Meanwhile, the ‘woke brigade’ is happier to nod disapprovingly, and suggest that Sushant should be allowed to rest in peace, almost reinforcing the stigma by insisting that the awkward subject of someone’s mental suffering should not be tabled at all. Both versions are a disservice to those who suffer.

The fact that someone with a scientific mind like Sushant Singh Rajput would need to go to such great lengths to conceal possible mental health problems is a reflection of everything that is wrong with the way Indian society looks at mental illness. Sadly, given the skewed narrative that has dominated headlines and TV debates since his tragic death, it would appear that his skepticism was not entirely misplaced.

The mark of a fair and evolved society is best indicated not by how it treats the strongest and fittest individuals, but how it treats the most fragile link. It is high time that we Indians start taking an open, balanced and sympathetic approach to matters of the mind.

The author is a senior editor, author, and media practitioner who comments extensively across Bollywood, celebrities and popular culture. Views are personal.

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49 Comments Share Your Views

49 COMMENTS

  1. Who is not suffered from depression in bollywood?
    Deepika padukone said she was in depression and took the treatment , shraddha kapoor also said she is in depression. Shaheen bhatt , alia bhats’s sister is also in depression and got the treatment. If sushanth have depression , he will take treatment and may come out from that. What is the big issue in this.

  2. A facepalm for the ignorance that led the author to write this, especially that title 🤦🏻‍♂️. A person has all the right to keep the person’s medical conditions confidential(if any) unless it’s needed for medical or legal purposes.

  3. Thank heavens for normalizing the issue. Our prejudices against emotional expression is tremendous. Its so common for mothers to tell their sons. Ladki jaise mat ro. और families to tell Daughter… आपमे sasural me किसी को तकलीफ mat dena, as though for every problem their daughter is the culprit.
    No wonder it is hard to ask for help when one is suffering.

    This has brought out what we see every day in our homes. Jaadu tona theories and non acceptance of real life.

  4. I am really happy with the endeavour of the writer and the Print, it takes courage to write in these times. I wish you the best and I support the article.

  5. I’m still appalled at this style of journalism that is allowed to speak ill of the dead who cannot stand up for themselves …. so why is rheas theory sounding more plausible to you than his fathers .. and I’m also noticing all this old fashioned journalism in which the journalists believe a common should live with the truth told to them by journos ; if a common man asks questions and in this case on many obvious things you start blaming trolls , families , indian culture !! You just want an open armed acceptance to the truth as positioned by your likes !!! Why ?! As much as conservative indian families are true gold digging is equally true and sadly may not be a crime punishable by law as narcissistic manipulators may still do it by the books !! This is about a common mans dreams , everyone sees a little bit of their life in this man ; they may choose ways to express that may not be deemed politically correct but the emotion is real !! And some of you have to just accept it

    • The journalism gutter than The Print has stooped down to is beyond belief. Continuously attaching SSR’s name to mental health is an appalling attempt at hiding the entire mafia attached to the case. Bootlicking of Hindu phobic seculars and calling oneself fair is the new trend these days.
      Another sick journalist who writes for The Print is Jyoti Yadav who blamed Bihari mindset for Sushant’s death. Shame on The Print.

  6. I’m still appalled at this style of journalism that is allowed to speak ill of the dead who cannot stand up for themselves …. so why is rheas theory sounding more plausible to you than his fathers .. and I’m also noticing all this old fashioned journalism in which the journalists believe a common should live with the truth told to them by journos ; if a common man asks questions and in this case on many obvious things you start blaming trolls , families , indian culture !! You just want an open armed acceptance to the truth as positioned by your likes !!! Why ?! As much as conservative indian families are true gold digging is equally true and sadly may not be a crime punishable by law as narcissistic manipulators may still do it by the books !! This time it is about a common mans dreams everyone sees a little bit of their life in this man ; they may choose ways to express that may not be deemed politically correct but the emotion is real !! And some of you have to just accept it

  7. This article shows how The Print just didn’t understand this case. Yes mental health is an important issue and Indians need to improve the way in which mental health is communicated. But you carry on talking about it while linking it to sushant murder case. I think it was you who fell for the deflection!! Yes, suicide and mental health was a complete deflection and had all of us believing it at one point. And you worry about “subliminal messaging” when clearly the lies and attempt at subliminal control the masses just failed to work by you know who… Maybe you mistimed this article or you think the masses are stupid and can never rise above subliminal messaging on their own without a voice like yours, then you are unabashedly wrong!!!!

  8. Shekhar Gupta is a dog who wags his tail for the thrown breadcrumbs only to create an air of false narrative. It is hight time we people be able to see through such ill conceived motives of people like Shekhar Gupta. Karma will take care of this merciless people of society, but we do not have to wait until then. We have the responsibility to expose such jokers and fail their propagandas. How dare you greedy mouth declare that Sushant Singh Rajput was in depression you son of a gun ?

  9. Now as days every tom dick and harry is writing articles on Mental Depression and Mental Health..
    The day This Print Stops publishing , mental depression cases in India will be halved ..

    • Very well said.. Selective feminism and liberalism to appease leftists and to appear intellectual is the new normal these days..! They are such cunning people that their bigotry and hypocrisy is disguised as secular opinion.

  10. Did not read the article but from title itself got to now, just have some shame shushant was not depressed natural he was given incorrect drugs or even if we was depressed let court and proof decided, and one more thing shushant have no depression till november 2019 and the in two/ three months he became bipolar. A doctor a can say that a patient is bipolar only after years of observation.And a depressed man should not be distanct from his family, old friend. SHAME ON YOU PRINT.

  11. There is a african proverb ” Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter”…Now you should understand the ppl of India have learned it legally and socially….so better you introspect ur stand…If u want to talk about mental health …feel free to do so but it should be exclusive of SSR….Don’t spread ur heavily paid propaganda…because Journal like u have no credibility….May God enlighten you.
    MG ” There is no God higher than truth”.

  12. How is it that Sushant’s depression problem started only after he met Rhea? So called doctor called up Barkha and told Sushant has bipolar not just depression. Rhea says he keeps hallucinating which means not just bipolar but schizophrenic. Is the author aware that schizophrenia is nothing like depression. If really Sushant had such a disorder would he have done well in academics and movie TV career. The fact that he has not left behind a suicide note, inspite of regularly expressing himself through writing, shows it is no suicide. Leftists paid news media launched the depression suicide theory. God knows if there someone from their own party they are trying to hide.

  13. Dear The Print,
    Stop trying to mold and reconstruct the murder of Sushant into a depression theory. Since day one your channel is trying your best to distort the truth which whole world can see with open eyes.!!!!!!!!!!
    Are you blindfolded ?? or Paid heavily by someone??
    In some articles, you write about bad bihari families and your dear masoom rhea chakraborty, and the other times you defame the sisters, and now you are trying another tactics of yours.!!! No doubt there might be other facts about Sushant’s incident which we’ll get to know in coming days, But, even if it was by 1% chance a suicide, the way you have presented the article is by no means a savior to mental health patients. This piece is less dedicated to mental health rather more dedicated in portraying DEEPIKA PADUKONE as a sweet-heart and winner.! Deepika Padukone who is yet being investigated for her reason of presence in JNU Protest & Delhi Riots.!
    Stop playing with the power you have as media and Stop misusing the platform, or else, the next jan andolan will be to eradicate nuisance and hatred promoting media channels like THE PRINT. You are ill-writing about someone when he is no more to defend himself..?? On humanity ground atleast have some respect for the person. Hoping to see you in good books in coming days!

    Regards,
    Mango Girl

  14. Dear The Print,
    I’m writing again to see how many comments you’ll delete!
    Stop trying to mold and reconstruct the murder of Sushant into a depression theory. Since day one your channel is trying your best to distort the truth which whole world can see with open eyes.!!!!!!!!!!
    Are you blindfolded ?? or Paid heavily by someone??
    In some articles, you write about bad bihari families and your dear masoom rhea chakraborty, and the other times you defame the sisters, and now you are trying another tactics of yours.!!! No doubt there might be other facts about Sushant’s incident which we’ll get to know in coming days, But, even if it was by 1% chance a suicide, the way you have presented the article is by no means a savior to mental health patients. This piece is less dedicated to mental health rather more dedicated in portraying DEEPIKA PADUKONE as a sweet-heart and winner.! Deepika Padukone who is yet being investigated for her reason of presence in JNU Protest & Delhi Riots.!
    Stop playing with the power you have as media and Stop misusing the platform, or else, the next jan andolan will be to eradicate nuisance and hatred promoting media channels like THE PRINT. You are ill-writing about someone when he is no more to defend himself..?? On humanity ground atleast have some respect for the person. Hoping to see you in good books in coming days!

    Regards,
    Mango Girl

  15. Shekhar Gupta
    I am ashamed of you and your team. Do you have a conscience?
    Why you are selling yourself for a few bucks and doing propaganda.
    This is not journalism, better you do prostitutions with your team.

  16. This is such a disgusting article. Who wrote this certainly has a strong bonding with the bolly underworld. Shame on you theprint.in. This is exactly why I stopped following you. You are behaving like a paid thug who is interested only in issues that irritate the country as a whole. What a cheap person you are.

  17. Don’t even feel like reading your articles. They are very biased. It’s part of the cover up. Depression does not always result in suicide. Nothing adds up in this case. Someone lost his life. There has to be a fair investigation. That’s all we all want. Please stop writing these articles.

  18. The print is sheltering the murderer. Is the writer not willfully making the murder look suicide but we are not fools. What its the motive TH PRINT behind your malicious article. Shame on you

  19. The author assumes that SSR had depression and also she assumes that he committed suicide because of that. Yes true depression is a good cause for suicide. But the facts of his death tell a different story: 1. The mark on his neck looks to be made by a belt kind of thing, but police said the material SSR used is cloth. 2. His body features don’t conform to a case of suicide.
    Rhee’s role is highly suspicious because of monetary transactions and also the way she remove the old staff of Susant. Had she married SSR, her actions wouldn’t have been questioned so much.

  20. “The author is a senior editor, author, and media practitioner who comments extensively across Bollywood, celebrities and popular culture. Views are personal.”: If your views are personal, keep them to yourself. This is not your social media handle, where you write what you feel.
    Be more responsible towards your job.

  21. I think wholeworld knows it is a murder except for 5-6 Media outlets. You have been narrating the same suicide theory day in day out in 10 different ways. Why did I donate money for a paid media like Print.. I will be careful next time.

  22. Looks like a Propaganda Article in garb of a Health Bulletin.
    WHY DO YOU “ASSUME” THAT SUSHANT HAD DEPRESSION.
    For God’s sake can for Once, Just Only once can you report without bias and assumption.

  23. Dear Print,

    Sushant was not depressed. He was murdered as you all can see for yourself but refuse to acknowledge. I understand you have a different political ideology, but please look into it purely on merit. Deepika Padukone who has openly admitted about depression could be more appropriate for spreading awareness.

  24. Shameful article. An example of people still getting paid for peddling all kinds of junk in the name of journalism. An article far removed from the indisputable evidence pointing to a murder, the writer has simply chosen to show off some catchy words and phrases without any end product #JusticeforSSR

  25. Confidentiality was important till he committed suicide. She is right in coming out when interested parties were confusing people about this aspect and started pointing fingers.

  26. Even if we assume that SSR was suffering from depression and concealed it, why did he concealed it from his own family? The article states that Deepika Padukone could recover from mental depression under caring and watchful gaze of her family. Under such circumstances, was it right for his girl friend to try to dissociate him from his family? The loneliness of the lockdown period could have contributed to his depression. At that time the support of the family, which the family was obviously very much willing to provide was blocked. Was it a right strategy? The conclusion is very simple. Depression or no depression, one must choose living partners very carefully.

  27. If he was!
    This again may be an attempt to declare him insane.
    We can’t rule out that he was bipolar ect.
    But to suggest he was depressed may be a little bit more.

  28. This article is a godsend compared to the absolute filth one has to deal with on a regular basis. Even calling it a ‘chemical locha’ implies that somebody is listening to a person in need. Instead, people call it a means to gain attention and dismiss the person just because they don’t show any ‘signs’ of being depressed. in India, it is also not if any people support going to a therapist or even talking to somebody. Instead, the regular reply is “think positive”.
    Sorry, but my thinking positive in no way stops my mind from sinking into the continuous spiraling depths of self- blame and hatred.

  29. जब कोई व्यक्ति वित्तीय/मानसिक /शारीरिक रूप से संतुष्ठ नहीं होता है और निकट भविष्य में संतुष्टि का रास्ता नहीं दिखाई देता है तो वह डिप्रेशन का शिकार होता जाता है और कुछ वर्षों में डिप्रेशन भयंकर रूप ले लेता है। घरवालों(दुनिया) की नजरों में करोड़ों कमाता है पर वास्विकता इनकम टैक्स व GST देने के बाद पता चलती है।

  30. You are talking of a depression which no one knew other than Mr. Bhatt and the accused Rhea. Theprint’s intentions and motives are crystal clear, of course they are proud of being a complicit in the murder coverup, in a way a party to crime.

  31. Yes You are right. The world is no place to keep your portal running because there is a crisis going on for news media and you must suicide.

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