Pratyusha Bannerjee’s suicide has shocked all and sundry,for very obvious reasons. She was twenty four, a popular face on TV and seemed full of life. People who know her claim that she was not the kind of person who could end her own life. Regardless of her particular case, this raises some pertinent questions on how we assume that we know what kind of people would attempt suicide and what kind of people would not.
Is there a kind?
We have a society which thrives on competition. Everyone is in a rat race to prove how their life is better than the rest.This kind of culture encourages people to talk about what’s going good in their life,i.e, a progressive career, overseas holidays, birth of babies, but at the same time, places a discreet taboo on sharing the problems. There are scenarios where people feel an invisible pressure of maintaining the sheen of a happy life, because that makes them feel worthy and wanted.
When it comes to relationships, we are a closed society. We are uncomfortable about asking what’s not going right behind closed walls. The situation is worse for women, because a majority of them derive a sense of security and achievement, not from a well paying job, but only when they can claim to have a man who loves them. Obviously when things don’t go right, there is mental block that stops them from talking about it,as a failed relationship is often equaled with failed personal worth. They might have scores of friends and a close family, but only “good things” are meant to be shared.
Contrary to what Rakhi Sawant thinks, ceiling fans are not the major cause of suicides, the cause is the social stigma that comes with exposing an imperfect life. Families need to foster a non judgemental environment for their children, because irrespective of age, parents provide that ultimate fall back cushion. Parents should never challenge children to prove themselves to family. Family, the building block of a social system, should be all about unconditional acceptance.
If living in a different city, an individual’s personal network need not necessarily be big, but strong. There should always be a couple of people who can substitute the warmth and safe haven that a family provides,people who are there to listen to your problems without judgements and to keep reminding you that you are worthy, irrespective of what is happening to you. Often, suicides can be prevented, or stalled, with something as simple as a warm hug or a reassuring touch. But for being there for a person, who is at the end of the withered rope, you need to first know that they are going down. That knowledge comes from a constant effort at keeping your friendships beyond social outings, clubbing, group trips or drunk declarations of solidarity.
It requires checking up on your friends when they are not available. It requires calling their phones a second time, if they don’t answer first. It requires asking them again and again about what’s wrong even at the cost of being snubbed. It requires surprise visits, when they don’t turn up to hang out. It requires confiding in them about your problems, so that they don’t feel lesser sharing theirs.
It is rightly said, that when you laugh, the world laughs with you but when you cry, you cry alone. It is this fundamental reality that we need to attack and change to prevent mental health issues from taking lives. For people to not give up on themselves, we need other people to not give up on them. Individual identities are forged in relation to societies, so as a society we need to be responsible towards making individuals secure about being their imperfect self.