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April 03, 2016 / Dr. Harish Shetty – Psychiatrist

‘She had a strong mind, it is not suicide ‘, yelled a friend of Pratyusha at the television cameras flocked to Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital after her death. And actor after actor repeated the same sentence minute after minute as the T.V. channels covered her story. To me it is sad that a young talented artist Pratyusha passed away and it is a great loss to her family. I do not know how she died and the police will piece together the puzzle of her death.

But the bigger issue in my opinion is the myth of the ‘strong mind’. Strong bodies also catch fever and strong stomachs also can suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. There is nothing like strong liver, brain, spleen etc. Depression is invisible and not easily seen by an eye that cannot discern. Awareness of the illness in the community will make it visible. And 1/3 people in India suffer from depression.

One can chase good health but not live in an illusion that we are strong always and all the time. Depression is invisible. Actors are supposed to be moody, eccentric and prone to bouts of crying and laughter. That is the stereotypes we hold. And here an underlying severe depression remains hidden, undiscovered and undiagnosed. No one is immune to diabetes or depression and to be preoccupied about the causes is like chasing the mosquito after a bout of malaria. Attempting suicide is not about courage or cowardice. It is a state of mind that needs to be treated – It is a fracture of mind.

So if someone is crying for long, feels hopeless, worthless, sleeps less or more, has no interest in work one should rush for a mental health checkup. Hospitals should include mental health checkups inside their executive health checkups too.

Actors also have a peculiar issue. ” After having the universe at one’s feet and the arc lights faithfully carrying the image of a small town girl to a billion hearts, a shift is perceived as a fall from Mt Everest. As superstars become meteorites in an unpredictable world of television, few collapse and cling to their lovers for solace, and when the love fails, the collapse of meaning in life can lead to self-harm. And depression is an invisible illness that escapes the attention of the ordinary eye and can lead to disastrous consequences. Awareness and early detection can save many lives. We do not know whether this is true in the case of this unfortunate girl.

Every Indian has an opinion on cricket, politics and mental health. No one dares to interfere with the medicines prescribed by a cardiologist!

So if we see someone down, get a mental health checkup done, just as we do an E.C.G for chest pain!

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