SHOMA A.CHATTERJI | 16 OCTOBER, 2019
Depression Pushes Top Celebrities to the Brink
India is the most depressed country in the world
Every day when you open the newspaper, there is at least one piece of news on a suicide where the victim is reported to have suffered from depression before taking the final step. Today, the local newspapers carried the news Priyodeep Das, a young man who was doing his Ph.D. in advanced Algebra at the Jadavpur University who killed himself. His friend
The number of people suffering from depression has been increasing every day. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the world’s fourth most debilitating illness. Detailed analysis of why people suffer from depression is still a question of debate because there are many kinds of depression triggered off by different causes and in people with different personality types.
But in India, it is strongly surrounded by a collective conspiracy of silence on the part of the victim himself/herself, on the part of the family members, neighbours and friends all of which leads to the victim and his family not approaching any expert for psychological counseling.
India is the most depressed country in the world according to the world health organization. It is the conspiracy of silence built around depression for many years that works as a block against remedying the situation for victims of depression. At 36% this is highest rate of depression anywhere on the globe. We also have the highest suicide rate of any country in the world.
Over 1 lakh people on an average kill themselves in India every year and these are the only reported figures of depression and suicide. In India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau of the Home Ministry, 13 out of every 100 people committing suicide are teenagers. Significantly, the overall suicide rate is increasing by seven per cent every year. However, it gives no figures for attempted suicide, which could be in multiples of the suicide figure
Celebrities are not immune. Soon after she won the Miss Universe crown, Sushmita Sen broke down into tears at a press conference in Mumbai because she was suffering from deep depression. The long phase of depression top actress Deepika Padukone suffered from is now public knowledge because she came out in public along with her mother and the two attending doctors to talk about her problem on a television talk show. Priyanka Chopra’s ex-manager came out with the statement that Priyanka attempted suicide several times attributing the attempts mainly to her volatile life with her then-boy-friend.
Pratyusha Banerjee, 24, a popular television actress was found hanging by the neck in her residence in Mumbai a couple of years ago.. She is reported to have committed suicide. Two close friends refuse to believe that she killed herself because her career and love life were both going badly. She did it on Sunday, October 13, 2019. She left a suicide note behind.
Why do celebrities succumb to destructive modes of putting a full-stop to their lives? Why do most of them die without leaving a suicide note behind? Why do friends cast aspersions on whether they really committed suicide or were cleverly murdered?
Jiah Khan, the beautiful girl who came from London to make a career in films and inspite of good films with Amir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, hung herself in her residence in Mumbai in 2013. Her mother revealed a six page note where Jiah wrote about being harassed and mentally tortured. As all evidences pointed at her boyfriend, Suraj Pancholi, he was arrested and booked on charge of abetment to suicide. Later, forensic reports confirmed that the actress was drunk when she committed suicide.
Kuljeet Randhawa, a model-turned-actress who appeared in serials like Special Squad, Hip Hip Hurray and CATS hanged herself at her Juhu apartment on February 8, 2006. Her close friend Nafisa Joseph, a former beauty queen and also a VJ was to marry businessman Gautam Khanduja. But the wedding was called off after she learnt that he was already married. He had told her that he had been divorced for two years. She killed herself.
Meena Kumari died tragically and an untimely of cirrhosis of the liver resulting from alcoholism. But the very alcoholism is traced back to her feelings of deep betrayal by people she thought were closest to her such as ex-husband Kamaal Amrohi, her sister and brother-in-law who purportedly were taking care of her and her actor boyfriend who used her as his ladder to rise in Bollywood and dropped her when he reached his goal. She died alone and a hand cart had to be called in to take her body for burial. She remains one of the most successful star-actresses to have taken Hindi cinema to new heights. Yet, she did not even try to withdraw herself from drinking knowing fully well that this would lead to her death.
Psychiatrist Dr. Sanjay Chugh says, “Suicide as an option would normally be considered when all doors seem closed and one feels trapped from all ends. It is a last resort for those who think that their lives have no meaning and purpose left to it. The individual feels a complete state of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. The celebrity might feel totally dejected and perhaps embarrassed to face the world which might push him to contemplate suicide.”
“We are living in a crisis-laden, depressed and stressed society," said Dr Kersi Chavda, president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society. He added that the fact that most of the people have used the same method - hanging - to commit suicide made it seem like a case of 'copycat suicides'. He was referring to a spate of suicides signals that society that happened in Mumbai in 2010 and said that these show that the society is going through a crisis. “Nine people - from an 11-year-old to a 65-year-old - have chosen to end their lives,” he said. "When someone who is depressed and morbid hears about how another person in the same situation has reacted, it tilts him over the edge," said Dr Chavda. Dr Anjali Chhabria pointed out that hanging seems to have become the most common way to commit suicide after model Nafisa Joseph hung herself from a ceiling fan in 2004.
The latest in this line is Mir Afsar Ali, the most popular media personality in Kolkata who is an anchor, a humorist, an actor, a radio jockey, and a singer with his own band called Bandage. In a detailed interview to a Bengali newspaper, he has gone on record to state that he tried to kill himself not once but four times. During the Durga Pooja last year, Mir, who had everything going for him – success, fame, money, wife, daughter, downed 87 sleeping pills with the aim of wiping himself away from the world.
“I am neither afraid nor embarrassed standing here to admit that between the 25th of February 2017 and the 10th of September 2019, I, Mir Afsar Ali, have attempted suicide four times. I am sharing this with you because you belong to my extended family. And I have the faith and the hope that you will not judge me. You will not ask me questions like – ‘why, Morning Man – you have everything in life, you are blessed with everything, then why?’
I will spare you the details. I do not want to go deeper – because that will make my wounds turn raw again. Yes, I have been blessed with everything, much more than I could ever have imagined. But in spite of all that, this constant chasing behind something, some desperation, some strange determination has pushed me to commit this act- not once, but four times.” He opened up in a shockingly frank admission on his own programme on Radio Mirchi on 10th September which happened to be Suicide Prevention Day!
Edwin Shneidman, co-founder of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Centre points out four common factors: the first is inimicality, hostility against oneself (like Freud's contention). The second is perturbation, a state of extreme anxiety, with the feeling of being closed in, no way out. The third is constriction, with the suicide's perceptions narrowing into a tunnel vision where the mind focusses only on the one unendurable emotion. The last is cessation, death as the only way out. Each of these suicides could be fitted into either of these descriptions, thus blurring beyond recognition, all attempts to identify and focus on specific causes.
Social therapy by mainstream people like friends and family can achieve a lot in relieving a depression patient from his inner pain. Interpersonal therapy is one such form of treatment. It is effective when used by people the patient is close to, such as a family member. Empathy and help from support groups can have powerful and positive repercussions on the patient’s cure and rehabilitation. This is especially important when and if the patient also suffers from some other form of physical illness or psychological disorder. Another suggested line of treatment is cognitive therapy which helps the depressed patient to identify and combat negative thoughts which are often created within the victim’s mind.
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