By Soumya Raj:
It’s not easy to battle with your own mind. It’s even tougher, when you emerge victorious and talk about it. As I watched Deepika Padukone talk about her own journey in an interview, tears streamed down my face. Having lost a dear friend to the ailment exactly a year back, I understood, I really understood when she tried to talk about that empty pit in her stomach, being scared, and “crying at the drop of a hat”.
Time and again, intensive studies come up with their shiny new facts and figures which reflect our own collective unhappiness as a society. A journal in US National Library of Medicine tells me that more women have a chance of being depressed than men, and yet another tells me that India has the highest number of patients suffering from depression.
The numbers are so high, that about one in every four people in India could be suffering from depression. Given the amount of social silence around the issue, it is probable that a large chunk of the people suffering from depression have never been either diagnosed, or treated. Because of this, the suicide rate in the country, especially amongst the youth, is alarmingly high. At one point in the interview, Dr. Bhatt, Deepika’s psychiatrist fears that it would become an epidemic, if not handled cautiously and addressed immediately.
A lot of people thought that it was convenient to toss away Deepika’s interview as a sham. This idea comes from the stigma related to mental illnesses as a whole. We live in a world where we constantly deny experiencing mental trauma, and contrary to what the numbers say, we think that it is the most unlikely thing to happen to us. Also, a popular belief that goes around is that anyone who suffers from any mental ailments, is probably, “mad”. These are the same people who think that because she’s a well known personality, with surplus luxuries, and an overflowing bank account, she cannot get depressed.
These are also the same people who believe that being mentally ill is just a state of mind and if people want to be unhappy they will be. For people who have been suffering from any mental ailments, this comes across as passive bullying, which forbids them to come out and speak up about their problems. A regressive approach like this pushes probable patients further into their cocoons, probably to eventually let the disease ride over them. The sensitivity that we, as a culture lack has the potential to cost individuals their lives.
In such a restrictive society, Deepika’s coming out was not only commendable, but also inspirational. I want to talk about depression as much as I want to talk about my jaundice, my typhoid, my influenza. I do not want to be ashamed of my own brain. I want to talk about my anxious personality, the tremors I experience occasionally, my paranoia regarding certain things, my obsessive compulsive tendencies, without the fear of being judged, or worst, labelled as an immediate outcast.
This definitely comes from personal experience, when I say that you do need as much support and compassionate advice as possible. Because of the widespread misconceptions around mental illnesses in our society, most around us think a little smiling, laughing, and a few happy moments would repair everything. Depression is not equivalent to ordinary sadness. It is out of your control, it also, often, transcends into physical symptoms. And tending to somebody’s moodswings is not similar to the treatment a depressed person requires, that too, from a licensed professional.
On my part, I want to thank Deepika. I do not know what gave her the courage to speak out, but in doing so, she has brought in a ray of hope for many individuals, who for the fear of being judged or mocked, would rather die due to depression than seek medical help. I think it is time we ushered in a positive and a non-judgmental approach to mental illnesses. While I am not hailing the actress as an ambassador for all the mental patients nationwide, I do consider her as a model whose frankness and vehemence, in this regard, the popular culture will hopefully emulate.
Perhaps, if depression was in anybody’s control, it would have been eradicated by now. Deepika spoke of her struggle just as another human being would, and if she can recover from depression, then anyone can. For instilling this hope, for bringing this issue to light so gracefully and positively, I applaud her. As stated by Deepika herself, “even if you impact one life, or save that one person from taking their life because they are so down and out, I think we achieved what we wanted to.”
You can find the transcript of the interview here.
You can find the video here.