The shocking suicide of 34-year-old actor Sushant Singh Rajput has not only left the country shocked but has also instilled a sense of fear and worry in the minds of people.
How do we prevent a young life from extinguishing? How do we do identity suicidal behaviour and help those around?
"A person does not want to kill themselves the moment they feel depressed. It is only after these feelings pile up to an extent where they could just spill over, that they begin to feel that the person begins to feel like they cannot be saved," Dr E. Aravind Raj, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS, Bengaluru says.
"There are three feelings that prompt a person to gradually want to take their life - hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness."
"Worthlessness makes a person feel like they are good for nothing, helplessness makes them believe that there is nothing or no one out there who can help them, and hopelessness makes them feel like they have nothing to look forward to," Dr Aravind says.
How Can A Non-Expert Help Someone Contemplating Suicide?
Is it only the one who is suffering from depression whose duty it is to reach out for help? Can we not be the ones to extend a helping hand in the first place?
"We can," says Dr. Aravind. "It is not always easy for someone going through an ordeal to reach out to people. There is the societal stigma around mental health that holds them back. They are afraid of being judged and not being taken seriously. Even when someone does reach out to us, we lack awareness on how to help them handle their situation. Not all of us are mental health experts."
"But remember, if someone close to you is contemplating suicide, there is no way that they will never mention it. At some point of time, they will tell you that they feel hopeless, that they do not want to live anymore. It is essential that we never take statements like these lightly, or dismiss them," he adds.
Dr. Aravind says that it is important that we understand the signs and refer that person to a medical expert who can help.
"If you are careful, you cannot miss the signs. If a friend who was always ready to have a cup of coffee with you now refuses to meet you, know that it's a sign. Lack of interest in everyday activities is not normal," says Dr. Aravind.
"For someone who is not a mental health expert, it may be difficult to identify if a person is clinically depressed or just sad. Sadness will pass. But if you see that person complaining about being sleepless and hopeless for a prolonged period of time, it needs to be taken seriously," he adds.
Dr. Aravind says that while it is important for those suffering from depression to be aware of where to find help, it is important for all of us to recognize the signs and help them.
"A person would only want to take their life if they feel like there is nothing to look forward to in the future. They would want to kill themself only when they think that they do not have an option. How about we, their loved ones, give them an option by being compassionate, kind, understanding and non-judgemental?" he says.
Success Is Not Synonymous With Happiness
Sushant Singh Rajput's suicide has prompted people to make a lot of speculations.
'But he was so successful'.
'He was famous'.
'He had a lot of money'.
'He was popular'.
Dr Aravind says that success had nothing to do with having a healthy mind.
"In our culture, successful people often achieve the status of a hero. For example, we idolise the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerbergs and celebrate the blazingly fast growth of their startups. We find it hard to wrap our heads around the fact that such rich, successful people cannot have a happy life," he explains.
The tragic death of Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha sent shockwaves across the country. People mourned the death of the man who made us believe that "a lot can happen over coffee". Siddhartha's death is a glaring example of how success and happiness are not synonymous.
"A person may be extremely successful, rich and popular, and yet harbour demons like extreme anxiety and depression inside them. On the other hand, a poor man may be a very happy person," Dr. Aravind says.
He adds: "And stigma makes it difficult for the most successful of people to reach out to the right person for help."
Life is full of uncertainties and has its share of ups and downs. A person living next door may right now be thinking of taking their life, but lack of awareness and indifference on our part might be holding us back from helping them.
Let's educate ourselves about the signs.
When someone tells us they can't sleep, that they have lost appetite, that they live to stay shut in a room, that they want everything to stop and that they want to die, let's not ask them to 'move on'. It is not just a phase. Let us do our bit to save lives.
You may reach out to Dr. Aravind on this number: +91 99016 52974
If you feel depressed and lonely, know that you are not alone. There are several NGOs across the country that are committed to helping you during crisis. In times of need, you may contact the following national helpline number: AASRA - 022 2754 6669