On World Suicide Prevention Day, 10 September, Sputnik discussed with Bollywood and TV actors why there has been a spike in celebrity suicides, as the entertainment professionals have called for a change in society's rules regarding how to be sensitive and caring toward others.
There's a number of reasons why a celebrity would end their life: from relationship issues to financial pressures, as well as depression and even severe mental illness.
Aside from Sushant Singh Rajput, who passed away in June, there have been other dramatic examples: actress Jia Khan as well as TV actors Pratyusha Banerjee and Kushal Punjabi have taken their lives in recent years.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused deep job and salary cuts, has only made careers more difficult to keep afloat in the Hindi entertainment industry.
Speaking to Sputnik, Bollywood actress Divya Dutta suggested that society needs to be more sensitive and open to understanding other people’s woes.
“These stressful times have given rise to suicides. I feel we, as a society, have failed somewhere. We’ve become more voyeuristic and vilify people instead of being supportive and encouraging. Let's not pull down somebody, if we can't pull them up,” she offered.
“We're so busy with our own selves and meeting our own ends that we don't listen to others," Dutta noted, adding, "It's time that we lend our ears to our friends and family. That's the least we can do and it sometimes works like magic.”
She noted that at times people feel apprehensive about addressing the matter, but the need of the hour is “to break out of one’s shell”.
“We hear so many times that this person has committed suicide but he was so jovial. These are instant decisions that a person might take in the lowest moment of their life. So, you don’t know what pushes somebody to come to that moment to end their life. Thus, it's important to talk when you feel low and lonely,” Dutta said.
On World Suicide Prevention Day, Bollywood actress Urmila Matondkar took to Twitter to highlight the need for a “great amount of empathy, compassion” while noting that “people are extremely opinionated and judgemental. We need care and understanding.”
Can u imagine what a person must be going thru before succumbing to suicide?Farmers,dailywagers to youngsters.Great amount of empathy,compassion is missing and people r extremely opinionated n judgemental.We need care n understanding🙏🏼#WorldSuicidePreventionDay #SuicidePrevention pic.twitter.com/7CHgCSNMNe— Urmila Matondkar (@UrmilaMatondkar) September 10, 2020
Aishwarya Sakhuja of the TV series "Yeh Hai Chahatein", in turn, pointed out that the life of an actor is not easy and that for some, sudden stardom is as difficult to handle as a downfall in one's career.
“In the entertainment industry, people only talk shop. You meet your friends and family and the first thing that they ask is what project you are working on. You have a fan coming up for a selfie and they also end up saying things that can mess up your mind. They are very quick to pass judgement.”
“The pressure to be seen on screen is immense. Of course, we are acknowledged for our work but people are also quick to tag us as a failure or a success story. Very often that empathy is missing,” said Aishwarya.
Asked what change she would like to see in the industry to prevent more suicides, Aishwarya said, “Change has to come at the grassroots level. The starting point to this is through inculcating basic understanding that comes from within. We as actors need to stop defining ourselves by the kind of projects we do and how successful or unsuccessful they fare on the screen. We as artists will have to toughen up.”
According to World Population Review report 2020, India's suicide rate ranks 21st in the world, at 16.3 suicides per 100,000 people. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, the country reported an average of 381 suicides each day in 2019, marking a nearly 3.4% increase compared to 2018. The alarming issue nonetheless remains largely under the radar.
For some, seeking therapy for mental illness carries with it a significant social stigma that must be eliminated.
TV actress Anjum Fakih, known for her show Kundali Bhagya, told Sputnik that these are unprecedented times and the pandemic has made a lot of people vulnerable.
“We just need to spread positivity and draw strength from each other, while helping people around us tide over their troubles. And it is crucial to notice a change in behaviour and counsel them.”
“Get them the right help and involve medical experts, if the need arises,” she added.
Emphasising that seeking psychiatric help is absolutely required in tough times, TV actress Madalsa Sharma told Sputnik, “One should build a support system of close friends and family to fall back on, in a low phase of life.”