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What pushed An IAF Flying Officer to commit suicide?

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Like every other festival, my Facebook news feed was flooded once again with some interesting photographs on Rakshabandhan. Scrolling down, I realized this time my friends were posting their most presentable photographs with their siblings to mark this beautiful festival celebrating the sibling bonding. The siblings were not essentially brothers this time; I liked this attitude shift. Sibling bond is a special and beautiful bond. I have three brothers who mean everything to me. No matter how much we fight or piss each other off with our relentless ranting and open-ended arguments, the loving bond remains intact and unharmed. This is the norm at my home; if it is not at yours, then I urge you to give it a thought.

Facebook scrolling has become an involuntary pastime activity that we all are guilty of indulging into once in a while, owing to the smart phones we can’t keep our hands off from for long and our well-exploited instinct of snoopiness by the social media websites. Falling victim to both the opportunities universe was throwing at me—a handy smartphone and a bit of curiosity—I was busy scrolling down and a picture of an old college friend popped up in my news feed. Her sister had tagged her in a photo collage wishing her `Happy Rakshabandhan’. I had been trying to connect with her for some time over messages but could not hear from her. Due to the busy schedules and hectic lives we live today, we tend to overlook certain signs and for some reason, we assume a lot more than what is required. We assume incidents happening in the lives of people around us without actually being concerned about them. It is a norm, a bad norm indeed!

Four years ago, this friend of mine had made it to the Indian Air Force and was all set to embark upon an exciting journey to become a Flying Officer; her dream career was waiting for her, apparently. I was immensely happy for her when she broke the news on Facebook. Since I have had few other friends in Armed Forces who were not allowed to use mobile phones during their training tenure, I outwardly assumed the similar condition for her. On her birthdays, I had been sending to her my wishes never to get back a response. I’d assumed her busy. I would have wished her this year too, had I not visited her Facebook profile to read the spine-chilling news from a newspaper cutting which hit me hard so badly that it made my head spin and vision blurry before I could believe what I was reading on my screen. My friend was gone! A lively, passionate, strong-headed girl with a beautiful soul had left us four years ago at the prime of her youth. She was just 24. Shocked to the bones, I was not ready to come to terms with this bitter reality, so I went ahead to confirm the news from her family members and I chose her sister to speak with. As if it was not enough what I had to bear in a day, she told me that my friend had not died in any accident but had committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling in her room at the 10th day of her training in Hyderabad. She was scared of not being able to complete her training due to the performance pressure. As told by her sister who seemed to me as my friend’s closest family member, she had left individual letters for each one of them before leaving for training; however, her family could not understand her mental state. Her letters had, as her sister claims, clearly suggested that she wanted to quit and end her life as she would not be able to cope up with the training stress. But for certain unknown reasons, she did not share her fears and anxieties with her family and took her own life. My heart was broken into innumerable pieces to know this. Go-getters can also fall prey to depression, as everyone including myself believed she was one. Praying peace for her soul, I dived into a deep ocean of thoughts, trying to remember the good old times we spent and my last conversation with her. The reel started to roll on, projecting the snapshots of her memoirs in the back of my head.

We all are prone to depression. At least once in a lifetime, we stand face-to-face with our vulnerable selves during our weak moments. Unfortunately, nobody teaches us how to deal with this monster, how to embrace ourselves during tough times, how to put a full-stop on the never-ending cycles of emotional imbalance that fuel self-pity in us which can be reduced by sharing our fears with the people who love us unconditionally–our family, and if required, there is absolutely no harm in seeking medical help too. Let us learn to accept this fact that there is nothing unnatural about it. Our problem is that we assume a lot. We assume that people will get okay with time as time is the best healer, which is not always true. We instead tend to waste an ample amount of energy in discussing philosophical narratives at length, but fail to pin-point the actual problem that our friend, our family, our colleague, or any person around us is facing. People need help when they get depressed. Why suicide is the last resort for all the emotionally challenged people? This is a crucial question and we as a society are liable to address this question today.

Let’s not forget that our heedless assumptions and lack of communication have huge potential to risk the lives of our loved ones. So, stay alert!

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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