I thought I would be waking up to just another casual Sunday, however, it was anything but that. I opened my eyes to yet another heart-breaking story of this year. “Yet another”, that’s the key phrase here. There have been gut-wrenching bouts of unsettling stories coming in every few days with absolutely nothing pleasant to look forward to. This time it was a fairly young actor, who by societal standards “had everything” except true mental peace. He was yet another victim of depression. The event brought back the topic of mental health to the table- something which most of us still don’t understand or acknowledge. I’m personally shaken because I used to look up to him for the way he lived his life. He had a vibrant, positive online persona, lived his life on his own terms, a quality so many used to idolize about him. A man of intellect, passion, and free spirit. Having followed his journey so closely, the sorrow feels much closer to heart, just like the other millions of Indians right now.
What scares me is how most of us will talk about mental health, harp on social media about it, but ONLY for now. This isn’t the first time- we’ve had similar incidents in the past, but somehow the message doesn’t really stick. Everyone’s mourning today, sharing how important it is to talk to each other and check up on each other. How many of us do/will really follow-through with it though? All the ‘how are you doing’s?’ doesn’t really mean much beyond the purpose of serving as a greeting. Some probably don’t even acknowledge it as a question, passing it off as just a hello, and don’t even bother responding to it. And most of us, if we do respond, it’s with the standard, ‘I’m good, thank you, how about you?’.
We’ve normalized this question so much that it has become a default conversation/response even if you’re dealing with a ton of different things in life; going through your darkest of days, sincerely hoping to be in bed hibernating this chapter of life. Certainly, some difficult conversations are reserved for specific people. You wouldn’t pour your heart out to your colleagues. But how often do we ask this question outside of work? To our friends? To our family? And if we do, how often do we mean them, in both question and response? Personally, I realized I’ve never asked my family or my friends, how they were really doing? What if they are battling their own mind and never spoke to anybody about it?
For the first time, I asked my 17-year-old sister, how was she doing mentally? I don’t think she was expecting that question out of the blue, she didn’t know how to react, she couldn’t hold back. It was as if I had touched something within that hurt the most. She broke down, almost apologizing for crying. All of the recent events were hard for even the adults to take, and she was just a teenager. How exhausting all of this must have been for her developing mind, I never even stopped to think once. She and millions like her were witnessing one of the hardest times amidst this pandemic. I was sitting here thousands of miles away from her, trying to comfort her and identify the root cause. I’m not sure if I got to it, but it was the recent state of affairs, with nothing to look forward to in life making her extremely anxious. She wanted to go back to school, something she never imagined saying.
I’m glad that she spoke to me about it. I gave her the trite response, ‘it will get better eventually’, though I don’t know how or when. What if I never truly asked? She would’ve suppressed all of her emotions and lived on. There may be so many more people out there, just waiting to be asked. Given the current times, mental unrest doesn’t differentiate by the color of your skin or your gender or your age. Just ask your loved ones how they are doing mentally and show them that you care.
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