If there's one mainstream actor in recent times who has vigorously advocated for mental health awareness, it has to be 31-year-old Deepika Padukone.
Deepika spoke about her struggle with depression and related illnesses (anxiety et. al) in 2015 after the success of Happy New Year, one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films ever made.
She launched a foundation called Live Love Laugh to raise awareness and bring the discussion on mental health ─ a taboo topic in South Asia ─ out in the open.
Today marks two years since the launch of Live Love Laugh, and the actor wrote a sound, heartwarming piece in Hindustan Times voicing the struggles the youth today faces.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms for two weeks or more, seeking professional help is highly recommended
"Did you know that suicide is the leading cause for death among India’s youth, with suicide rates being among the highest in the world?" she alarms, adding most people in the country aren't even aware they are experiencing depression.
"Even if somebody realises that they are depressed, most do not seek help, and suffer in silence due to stigma," Deepika says. There is shame in suffering from depression and it shouldn't be considered a character flaw, she adds.
"Back in 2014, when I was in pain, suffering alone, and breaking down repeatedly, I didn’t know I was depressed," she narrates her experience. "I was going about my day, posing for cameras, getting interviewed and signing autographs."
"But what nobody saw was that I didn’t feel like myself, I felt ‘different’ somehow," she added.
"My breathing was irregular and shallow, my stomach was in knots, getting out of bed was a struggle and I would break down for no reason," Padukone said. "All I wanted to do was to curl up and stay in bed."
Padukone quoted a 2016 study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry, which revealed that 53.2% university students struggled with depression. She explained some of the most common symptoms of depression include a pervasive low mood, a lack of interest, low energy, or restlessness, decreased or increased appetite, oversleeping or insomnia, impaired memory, lowered self-confidence, and thoughts of death and suicide.
Depression's extreme manifestation, however, is suicide, she alarmed.
Luckily for the actress, she said, her mother realised what she was observing in her daughter was more than sadness and got her the expert help she needed.
"If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms for two weeks or more, seeking professional help is highly recommended," the advocate points out.
"We are in this together," she says, ending her letter with words of encouragement from comedian Stephen Fry that there is hope and it will be sunny one day.