Sushant Singh Rajput Death: Debunking Some Common Myths About Suicide, And How We Can Help
Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide shook the nation.
Not only Rajput was a budding actor with successful films like MS Dhoni in his bag, but he also was a bright young man who secured 7th rank in All India Engineering Entrance Examination, and admission in the prestigious Delhi Technological University.
He was a self-made man, a reason his story reverberates with a lot of the youth in the country.
The fight is on for securing justice for Sushant. Recently, the Supreme Court of India transferred his case to the nation’s premier investigative agency, CBI. Many also allege foul play.
After his death, several accusations emerged in the media — harassment by Bollywood bigwigs, dissatisfaction in work life, alleged drug use, etc. but none received more attention than the problems in his relationship with Rhea Chakraborty.
As tragic as the suicide of a young actor is, it is also presents a cautionary tale, a teachable moment, regarding safety and well-being in relationships.
One reason episodes like Sushant’s take us by surprise and leave us befuddled is the lack of the understanding of mental health and suicide.
Understanding a suicide
There are some common myths about suicide:
It doesn't happen to people like me, my friends or family members — Ultimately, it is the person who commits it makes a choice to do so, but it is important to understand that suicide is an outcome of various risk-factors. Given the presence of these factors, anyone can be at a high risk of a suicide. No one is an exception.
Only the people who are poor or have nothing to live for commit suicide — Ensuring a material well-being, and overall well rounded lives with friends and family reduces the general risk of suicide in a population. However, these factors are not a guarantee against suicide in the case of an individual.
Suicide is a sudden, unpredictable occurrence with little or no warning — No, most of the time there are red flags that a person is at a high risk of self-harm, and needs help.
Everyone who attempts suicide intends to die; once people decide to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do to stop them — Most suicide attempts are not an embrace of death but an escape from life. These are two different things. In the moment, suicide victims are overcome by a sense of unbearability of the pain of their life. It is possible to pull them out of this feeling with expert help.
A suicide attempt is a manipulative or attention-seeking behaviour and therefore should be ignored or punished — It is not impossible that a manipulative person feigns a suicide attempt for emotional extortion. Nonetheless, a suicide attempt should be seen as a ‘cry for help’ and a signal to seek expert help to uncover the underlying factors that the fuelling the behaviour, even if it is manipulative behaviour.
What is a person feeling when they decide to commit suicide?
feeling trapped and backed into a corner
For example — being in an abusive relationship which one is not able to get out of due to threat of defamation, violence or financial dependence. There are allegations against Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant Singh Rajput’s girlfriend, of harassing him.
For example — legal or financial problems which one can’t fix. One is reminded of V G Siddhartha, founder of Cafe Coffee Day who reportedly killed himself last year.
feeling like a burden
For example — children who feel they are a burden on their parents and that others will be better off if they are gone are at high risk of suicide. Children blaming themselves for problems at home (divorce, fighting, financial troubles etc.) are also at a higher risk of suicide.
depression, anxiety, shame
For example — children depressed about failing in examinations, dreading telling their parents, disappointing them. In April, a NEET aspirant in Kota ended her life ‘for not living up to parents’ expectations’.
anger and rage
For example — sometimes pent-up anger finds its outlet through self-harm. Impulsive people can attempt suicide in rage. Anger and impulsivity correlate significantly with suicide risk.
Warning signs of suicide
Apart from persons expressing that they are having the aforementioned feelings, there are other warning signs of suicide:
Withdrawing from friends, family, and other activities, especially outdoor activities – pulling back from life altogether, sleeping more, their behaviour may come-off as not caring about friends or family members
Drugs or alcohol usage interfering with their normal functioning and routine
Engaging in high-risk behaviour
Talking about suicide as an option, researching ways to kill themselves
Telling people goodbye, giving away prised possessions
Prior history of self harm or suicidal behaviour
How can we help?
If one of your family members or friends is at a risk, you shouldn’t wait for them to seek help. Do not believe the myth that they must "hit bottom" for their eyes to finally open.
Reach out to them and express your concerns, allow them to talk, listen carefully and understand what they are going through, whether they have a plan etc.
If they are reluctant, be patient. If they try to divert the conversation, gently bring them back to subject.
Do not bombard them with advice about how to make things better, or how their problems are not the ‘worst thing in the world to happen to someone’.
Instead, practice reflective listening – say back to them what they are telling you in your own words, with compassion, so that they know that you’re understanding what they want to tell you, and that you care enough to put an effort for the same. This way, they will also correct you if needed, and the conversation will be more insightful.
Do not guilt or shame them – “How can you think like this?” “Why are you so dramatic?” “Imagine how much you are hurting Mom and Dad” “Do you ever think about what other people are going through”.
Instead of using accusatory language, tell them how the change in their behaviour, or the slightest chance of losing them makes you and others feel –
“You have become a shell of a person you were before, and I miss the friend that I used to goof around with”
“You are my husband, I love you, and it kills me to see you suffering like this and not knowing what I can do to end it”
“You have children who will not have another mother. They love you and they need to know that they were important enough for you to give your best to live; to see their college graduation, marriage etc.”
Understand that some problems may well be above your pay grade. As a friend or a family member you cannot “love” someone out of suicidal thoughts or behaviour. If needed, there are dedicated resources with the expertise required – medical professionals, therapists, counsellors etc. – that should be sought without hesitation.
Encourage and help the person to build a structure in life and cut the chaos. Help them gain a healthy perspective on life. For example, broadening the horizon of one’s awareness – for example, talking about historical figures and events – helps.
Having a routine, working out, spending time on a hobby, doing volunteer work, spending more time outdoors, travelling, meeting with close friends and family members, Yoga and meditation, aadhyatmic growth, all help.
Apart from this, address the reasons behind their feelings of being trapped or hopelessness.
For example, as alleged in the case of Sushant Singh Rajpoot, an abusive relationship can give rise to a feeling of being trapped. In the second and last part of this article, we shall discuss abusive relationships and how to avoid or get out of them.
If you need support or know someone who does, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist
Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health - 1860-2662-345 / 1800-2333-330 (24 hours)
Sumaitri: 011-23389090. Mon-Fri 2 pm to 10 pm and Sat-Sun 10 and to 10 pm
Sanjeevani: 011-24311918, 24318883. Timings: 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (Monday to Friday)
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