Death of Sushant Singh Rajput

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Young actor’s suicide discloses Bollywood’s mental health setback

The recently committed suicide by popular Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has discloses the pressures faced by those who work in Mumbai’s film industry.

The 34-year-old was found hanging in his residence on June 14 2020.

From celebrities to the professionals behind the scenes, the occurrence as drawn attention to the fragility that lies beneath the glamorous veneer of the industry. In particular, it has brought focus on the topic of mental health – an area that is often stigmatised or misunderstood in India.

“The very idea of depression or anxiety is treated as a foreign concept, we don’t have a vocabulary for such things in India,” says Nikhil Taneja, CEO of Yuvaa, a youth media organisation.

“That’s why many parents treat them as fads or excuses, which leads to stigma and absence of family support for young people seeking help.”

Not long ago, there have been attempts to counter such stigma, including by top actress Deepika Padukone, who shared her own experience of living with depression.

Despite such efforts, says Taneja: “We are in the midst of a mental health crisis.”

Within the film industry, well-known actors and directors face a different set of pressures, including being unable to reach out for help, says psychiatrist Dr Dayal Mirchandani.

Often, his celebrity clients would ask him if he could come to their homes for sessions. “There is a pressure to keep up appearances, coupled with very little stability. You could be in a good position one day and then be nowhere the next,” he says.

Bollywood actors also face a ticking clock, with a relatively short window to achieve success, which makes it an intensely competitive industry. The wide reach of social media has added to the feeling of living under constant scrutiny, says Amit Behl, film and TV actor. “It’s like always being on high alert.”


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