Mental Health: Let’s talk about it openly - South Asia Time

Mental Health: Let’s talk about it openly

 June 18, 2020  

By Lachhuman Gurung

Sushant Singh Rajput, a Bollywood star aged 34, commited suicide at his residence in Mumbai. The headline shocked the whole world including me. I am not too much into movies and Bollywood. But this one was different. It was a suicide case and very much about the mental health. Whenever the news is on mental health it interests me more than any other topics. The main reason being myself having been through that stage over a decade ago.  It compelled me to think how such a young and talented aspiring actor could end his life so easily. I began to contemplate. I began to reflect back in retrospective on my own mental health in the past and the horrific days I had been through.

It was during the first year in my MBA, when I began to see some signs of depression. The reasons unknown, the trigger unknown. This would last for another six months. Those six months were the darkest days of my life. Everyday felt like another long day. This fear of uncertainty and helplessness was too strong. For no reasons there would be a feeling of despair, agony and helplessness. This would eventually trigger into frequent panic attacks. The heartbeat pounding and taking ages to stop.  Even when I write this, the trauma and the thoughts of those panic attacks still make me feel edgy. Those were by far the scariest six months of my life. So powerful were those distressing thoughts that sometimes I would see no signs of hope.

Looking back in retrospect, many factors must have contributed to the stage I had been through. One of the main reasons was the built-up stress that I had somehow managed to suppress within me. After good five years of education gap in my early twenties and coming back to mainstream education was not easy.  I must have built that perseverance and resilience so strong that I failed to deal with my own emotion and the social life balance. The intent of coming back to studies was too huge. I never realised what mental health was then. Now I realise I had been hard on myself pushing to the limit to achieve the academic pursuit I had set myself after leaving Hong Kong. May be this was the major trigger for the volcanic eruption of the emotional outburst, which finally led to a prolonged depression.

Do we have time to look after ourselves?

It may just be silly to compare this experience of mine with the actor Sushant. Yet there may similar pattern of how he might have felt during those days of isolation. If he did commit suicide due to depression, I can only feel what he must have endured. This is easier said than done but believe me it is not as easy as it sounds and not everyone can come out of this stage. Being an outsider in the Bollywood and trying so hard to chase his dream of fame and stardom, he must have been so hard on himself that he could simply take it no more. This must have been triggered by various other factors which are in speculation and trolling in social media. I do not want to make any personal judgement on this. Whatever the reasons for the untimely demise of this most versatile, talented and well-educated actor, it brings us back to think; is life worth chasing all these big dreams and the fame and stardom that one dies for? Are we even aware of our mental well-being and the factors contributing to this tragic incident? Do we have time to look after ourselves, love ourselves and ensure check and balance of our mental well-being?

Having been through the stage myself what is clear is that not all can come out of this difficult stage with ease. It needs a lot of love, support and care. Of course, various factors such as personality of the individual, situation and peer pressure all come in play and not everyone is lucky to have someone to talk to and share one’s emotions. He may have been one of those unlucky ones. I must say I was lucky enough to have support of my family and friends. I can never thank enough a very close friend of mine who was always there to listen to me during those traumatic days. I would even shed tears and cry. In fact some sessions of intense crying had helped me to gradually come out of it.

Here’s the lesson. We are all human. We all go through our hard days and it is absolutely normal. However, it is important to talk to someone. Important to seek help if you need. If you are not one of those suffering than it is important to look out for friends, colleagues, family members or neighbours who might have been going through this. Mental health is not just about emotional well-being. It is also about promoting good social habits, open communication, trusting each other, showing care and love for people around. With us being so much glued to our gadgets and technology and avoiding social contacts we are likely to see more of these incidences especially in our younger generation if we do not start sharing and talking about this openly. This is where it becomes paramount to communicate openly, speak to your spouse with honesty, listen to our children, and maintain that emotional health of ours. It is as important as physical health. What is wealth, fame and stardom if what it brings is disappointment, despair and frustrations?  A happy and sound mental health is the key to a happy life. The need for this will be even more in days ahead. High time we think, reflect and act before it is too late!!

(Lachhuman Gurung is an Associate Lecturer at Arden University Senior Lecturer and Academic Lead for Quality at Global University System Fellow member of Higher Education Academy (FHEA) Standard Verifier at Pearson Education )