Mental Health Awareness has to spring from grassroots. Students in school should be talked to about it, they should be told that sometimes the inside of your head may get too complex to gauge, and help should be sought. Even now the prominent view regarding Mental Health in India is that it is a first world problem.
“I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices. And I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do.” wrote Virginia Woolf in her suicide letter in the year 1941. People exclaimed, wondered, and still do, while reading her exceptionally placed works. Behind this exclamation and wonder is the assumption that an artist’s life is an artist’s work. It is the wonder of picking up “Room of one’s own” and comparing the ambition and optimism of the text with her personal life. This exclamation is no different as compared to when the scenes and dialogues from the films Sushant Singh Rajput has acted in are quoted as a tribute. The characters that he had played and what he himself was are two different things, and when the two are intermixed and one is seen as a consequence of the other, the larger picture of stigmatization around mental health and the failure of the public health system is ignored, or if talked about, does so ephemerally and gradually dies.
On 14th June 2020, Sushant Singh Rajput died of suicide. The news channels started the “Special Tonights” giving a panoramic view of his life starting from his birth. Instagram stories were being put talking about how much 2020 sucks. Families under lockdown were wondering if his film career was going downhill. Some were blaming him for his death. Some were convincing themselves that they will never do it. Some were triggered by it, thinking they might be next. Bollywood actors were giving virtual condolences to his family. But in the midst of all this, there is an urgent need to reflect upon the mental health care system and its accessibility. Instances like these beg for an answer to a much wider question- How can the mental health sector of India become accessible to the larger population? What steps has the government taken to lessen the suicide rates?
In India, The Mental Health Care Act 2017 was passed on 7 April 2017 and came into force from July 7, 2018. The law was described in its opening paragraph as:
“An Act to provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of such persons during delivery of mental healthcare and services and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
The rising suicide rates of students, farmers, workers in India speaks volumes of the hollowness of the Mental Health Care Act. Students are pressurized into choosing canonical fields of study and unrealistic goals are set before them. They are urged to work harder and harder while the number of job vacancies suffer an extreme fall. Farmers die by suicide because they are under loans which the government does not waive, they die because of the circumstances that lead them to it. The Mental Health System is interconnected with other Ministries too. One Ministry has impact on another. Unfortunately, this interdependence is intentionally ignored. The mental impact of passing of a certain Act is not taken into account and therefore what happens inside the mind of a person becomes a “private affair” which cannot be gauged by others.
A problem of the “other” and is compared to having a weak constitution. All these stigmas should be addressed and resolved. They should be discussed and spoken of. We all grieve Sushant Singh Rajput. Rightly so. We have to reason that grief and thus focus on the trail of collapsing structures which lead to many such deaths.
Arifa Banu is a student pursuing English Honors from Jamia Millia Islamia.
edited by: Yusuf Aziz