Mental health - a phrase we have, in recent years, heard a lot of. Despite this, even today, the South Asian community struggles to comprehend the sheer extent of this issue. With the recent, devastating death of young talent Sushant Singh Rajput, comes a stark wake-up call to society: believe us, it is real, and it hurts.
As a young Desi who has lived in some of the world's most diverse places, I consider myself to have a greater exposure to the concept of mental health than those within Southern Asia. We are taught, not only in society, but in school about the importance of mental wellbeing, of a stress-free life, of coping mechanisms but in the South Asian community, we do the opposite. In recent days, we have seen more and more celebrities and influential figures highlight the mental health stigma in our community, but we still refuse to learn. Why is it so difficult for our society to gauge a concept as simple as basic health? We all know what to do when we have a cold, so why do we think it is okay to stigmatise an illness like depression?
The answer is simple: we don't talk. Gossip, totkas, old folk tales -- we hear frequently. But how often do we talk about ourselves? The concept of selflessness or, more accurately, self-denial, is embedded so deeply within our culture, that we fail to recognise the harm it inflicts on our community. We hush anyone speaking from their heart with the typical "you are so much more fortunate than others in our country," and it is time we realise how wrong we are. Money, fame, power are things that fulfill our physical needs, while love, support and empathy satisfy our emotional needs. And no, everyone does not have access to this.
Pakistan, India and other states in the region continue to face divides in the name of politics, not realising that the problems we find rooted so deeply within our societies are the same. There is a reason Pakistani dramas are watched across borders, and Bollywood films manage to catch our attention; it is because our successes, failures and ideologies are similar beyond what we will ever acknowledge. Maybe, uniting against the issue of mental health stigma will help us save some lives, secure some futures, and cultivate happiness and prosperity. Though, for some, the divide between Pakistan, India and other countries revolves more around human rights abuses than politics, to the extent that we are able, let's give politics a break, and come together in the name of humanity. Instead of pitting ourselves against each other and accepting the blatant civil rights violations currently present within our nations under the guise of political belief, let’s work together to bring an end to hatred. Let’s unite for the sake of humanity. The South Asian community is home to immense talent that, we, together, can use to bring hope to those struggling to be seen.
This pandemic poses an opportunity for us to identify problems, to learn why we are wrong and to redefy our ideologies. Take the time to speak, about yourself, about others, to yourself, and to others -- we can change, and we will.