Actor Sushant Singh Rajput's untimely, tragic death has sparked fresh debates and discussions on mental health in the country. Whether Sushant was suffering from depression or not has also been extensively discussed by experts and non-experts alike.
In a show aired by Times Now recently, the channel came to the conclusion that Sushant Singh Rajput could not have been suffering from depression -- based on two videos of Sushant that they accessed.
Times Now's Conclusion
Posting a video of the show, Times Now wrote: "TIMES NOW has accessed 2 videos of Sushant Singh (dated January 2020) where there is no sign of depression on his face.
Family sources: 'Does he look depressed?'"
The videos, presented by Times Now's Navika Kumar, are apparently "one of the leading evidences" that stand testimony to the fact that Sushant was not depressed.
One of the videos from January this year reportedly shows Sushant in Haryana's Panchkula, visiting his sister. In the video, the late actor looks cheerful and carefree, with a smile on his face.
Seeing Sushant's face and demeanour, Times Now came to the conclusion that he was "absolutely fine, absolutely normal", so it is difficult to believe that in a span of four-five months, he could be so mentally ill that he would think of taking his life.
In the second video too, Sushant can be seen happily talking to his family.
#EXCLUSIVE #Breaking | TIMES NOW has accessed 2 videos of Sushant Singh (dated January 2020) where there is no sign of depression on his face.— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) August 3, 2020
Family sources: 'Does he look depressed?'
Navika Kumar with details. | #SushantFatherAppealTape pic.twitter.com/usCRFaVVV0
On being asked whether Sushant 'looked like a guy who could have been suffering from depression', Chief Editor Rahul Shivshankar says that his family would have definitely known if he was depressed had he shown up at his home in a "dishevelled sort of way" or "in a manner that reeked of some sort of a mental breakdown".
Pointing at Sushant's photographs with his family, he terms them as pictures of "happiness" and "normalcy".
What Are Experts Saying?
The Logical Indian spoke to a few mental health experts to understand if the outer appearance of a person is a proof of their mental health condition.
Salony Priya, psychologist, founder of Ummeed, a multi-speciality mental health centre, says: "Take a very simple instance for example: You are feeling low and unhappy, but you have to visit a family gathering. When you go there, you would be putting on a smile to maintain a proper social appearance. Does that mean you are not upset or hurt inside?"
"Social behaviour is very different. Somebody could be depressed or anxious within themselves, could be gouging through a very hard time, but looking at them, you wouldn't know any of it. Just looking at somebody's happy picture or video, you absolutely cannot come to the conclusion that they were fine," she adds.
Salony has counseled several youngsters who were depressed and suicidal. Talking about Sushant Singh Rajput, she says: "None of us knew the gentleman personally. For a star or an actor, it is important to maintain a social persona and appearance that is joyful. He could show that he was perfectly fine, managing, coping and leading a happy life, but that does not reflect the reality. He could have been miserable inside."
"Having dealt with so many depressed clients, I can confidently tell you that a person who would commit suicide tomorrow could look perfectly normal today. Sushant may have been suffering from severe mental health issues, and for non-experts to come to a conclusion based on videos and pictures is not fair," she adds.
Elaborating further on the issue, 30-year-old Suniti Barua, a Psychotherapist, says that the stigma around depression often deters a person from expressing their feelings.
"A video or a picture means nothing. A smile or laughter or a happy face is not a measure for not being depressed. Moreover, people often tend to hide feelings of helplessness and loneliness with the help of a social mask because they are afraid of being judged and talked about. The stigma makes it difficult for people to open up about their mental health condition."
Dr E. Aravind Raj, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, says: "Simply put, do not judge a book by its cover. A smile does not always have to do with feelings of happiness. There is no such thing as 'looking depressed'. Depression is an illness which comes with various symptoms, and judging the illness on the basis of a person's outer appearance is not right."
Mental health is a topic to be dealt with sensitively and responsibly. Drawing conclusions about the life of a deceased man, based on his pictures and videos, is belittling him.
Media houses should be the voice of reason. Journalists should gather information and facts and present them in a balanced manner.
A media house is not a courtroom where we pass judgement. Our opinions should be based on facts, and we must answer questions of the public with certitude.