Parno Mittra and Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee opened up on their battle with depression

ANINDITA ACHARYA, Kolkata: Actress Deepika Padukone was mercilessly trolled on social media for her posts on mental health after the shocking and untimely death of Sushant Singh Rajput. It again brought into focus the subject of mental health and suicide in focus. But then, social media users were upset with the term “mental health and suicide”. They trolled Deepika because she had been vocal about depression and mental health on social media. Users ever tweeted, “Instead of selling a disease get it treated #RepeatAfterMe.”

In India, the stigma, taboo, shame, guilt with mental health conditions is one of the primary reasons why people don’t open about depression and committing suicides. However, with timely intervention, suicides can be one of the most preventable causes of death.

Shubhika Singh, consultant psychologist and trustee of Lifeline Foundation, Kolkata, which provides counselling to depressed individuals, says during the pandemic the calls have gone up by 60%. “We receive about between 40 to 45 calls a day. The call duration has increased, too. Earlier calls would last for about 15 to 20 minutes, now the majority of calls last for 30 to 40 minutes,” she says.

India reported an average 381 deaths by suicide daily in 2019, totalling 1,39,123 fatalities over the year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This year, the lockdown saw an increase rate of suicides. Singh says coronavirus along with attacking our immune system and organs has had a devastating effect on the mental health of our society. “Anxiety, panic, and stress are affecting us all consciously and subconsciously in these tough times. Individuals from all walks and stages of life across India are reaching out to us due to the looming uncertainly. Some are worried about next month’s salary, students are pressurized due to the exams and missing school, and senior citizens who would go for a monthly check-up to the doctor are fearful of seeking medical help. The hopelessness is driving people to end their life,” she says.

But Singh says if we know of someone who is suicidal or has mental health conditions, we should be understanding and supportive. We should let him/her lead the conversation and give them undivided attention and listen patiently. We should be careful not to trivialize the issue.

That reminds us how Bengali actress Parno Mittra had opened up about her battle with depression and suicide.

She wrote: “Mental health is important! I have been suicidal and have thought of it a number of times. The pain doesn’t go away. We slowly move into a shell that becomes unbreakable! It’s not easy to open up or just talk to someone. It becomes a part of your being.”

Parno also shared the Go Yellow Kolkata 2020, an initiative spearheaded by Lifeline Foundation,
to spread awareness about mental health on World Suicide Prevention Day.

Singh says that suicides are largely preventable. And Singh says more than ever it is high time we break the stigmas and look at mental health with scornful eyes. “We have to create awareness in order to achieve the normalizing of these issues. Even though we have access to our family and loved ones, it is not always easy to share what’s truly troubling us with the people closest to us. This leads to negative thinking and a disturbed state of mind. Bottling up of feelings and issues, can manifest into mental health issues and sometimes even lead people to take their own life,” says Singh.

Kolkata’s interdisciplinary artiste Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee shared a photograph in a yellow t-shirt on World Suicide Prevention Day and said how he attempted suicide twice. But each time, he said he had lived with vigour to challenge his demons. “Give life a chance to heal you. Talk, share and breathe. I attempted suicide twice and each time I did that I lived with vigour to challenge my demons. I had no therapist or a counsellor and I could only gather my pieces through my art. It was not easy and even today when I face up all kinds of shit that life throws me into, I smile and say, “Let’s do it better and large”,” by