‘People in Showbiz are More Prone to Mental Illness’: Actress Shama Sikander, Who Battled Depression

Actress Shama Sikander - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.10.2021
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On 10 October every year, World Mental Health Day is celebrated to raise awareness and extend support for the issue. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that around 280 million people suffer from depression globally, whereas around one in five of the world’s children and adolescents have a mental disorder.
Indian actress Shama Sikander, who managed to control bipolar disorder and successfully battled depression that triggered suicidal thoughts back in 2012, has opened up about what pushed her to the edge and why people in the showbiz industry are more prone to mental health issues.
Starting her acting career in 2003, Shama quickly shot to fame and became a household name for playing a chirpy girl-next-door in the television show "Yeh Meri Life Hai".
However, life made a U-turn and the gradual downfall in her career and pressures of show business brought forth mental health illness.
The 42-year-old actress recalls that for one year, she didn’t even know what was happening to her and used to feel very dark, gloomy, and sad. The feeling of being directionless and hopeless would engulf her and she would wake up at night and start crying without knowing why she was crying.
She was silently suffering until she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which was causing her to have extreme mood swings, ranging from mania to depression.

“People in the showbiz industry are more prone to mental health issues. One hit film or a show will suddenly make you a star. But one flop can end your whole career. And if you take a break from work, there are chances of becoming out of sight, out of mind. These rapid ups and downs are very dangerous to mental health and stability in the life of an actor, something which I experienced personally”, Shama tells Sputnik.

From meteoric rises to gradual downfalls, from financial crunches to personal dilemmas, actors go through a lot during their artistic journeys.
Shama shares, that in the pursuit of carving out a niche in the industry, cut-throat competition and high expectations put actors under a lot of pressure, because of which they often lose track of the right path.
“Any healthy competition, I don’t mind but with time, it gets really ugly sometimes. Things like constant comparison of how successful an actor is and going against your true self are promoted here very subtly without people even knowing it".

"With social media, there is so much pressure to be active and continuously do something to be visible in the public light, that actors often start faking themselves instead of being real and true to self”, Shama says.

She also points out that there is a constant pressure to look perfect all the time off-screen as well as on-screen.

“If you put on a little bit of weight, people would body-shame you and if you lose weight, they would skinny-shame you as well. This makes actors image-conscious and not many show their real self openly in the industry”, Shama, who is an ardently fitness-conscious person, says.

Actors are often asked what their next project is, and Shama says that one should not get boghed down by such questions and people’s expectation to see you on screen all the time.
“Actors are often expected to perpetually do something. If we don’t, it’s considered abnormal. People will ask me 'why are you not taking up enough projects?' and [say] that I should be doing something bigger. This forces an actor to feel guilty for no reason. If I don’t want to do anything for some time, it should be okay. It’s my choice, my right", Shama shares.
In pursuit of making it big in showbiz, Shama says that not many people know what they are getting into, and when they realise it, then they are trapped and it becomes tough to handle mental illness.

“The chase of getting name, fame, success, and the habit of constantly doing something to be shown on screen and social media can make people more prone to mental illness. The only way to not get trapped in this is to press pause, re-evaluate, and not get swayed by any pressures,” Shama adds.

After becoming famous for her roles in the Indian television series "Yeh Meri Life Hai" (2003-2005), Shama grabbed the limelight for her web film "Sexaholic", the series "Maaya: Slave of Her Desires", and also Bollywood movies such as "Mann" and "Bypass Road".
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