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Why We Need More Suicide Prevention Awareness In An Era Of Media Ill-Reporting Celebrity Suicide

It was 14th of June, the Newspapers and Channels were rife with the news of superstar Mr. Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic death by suicide. All over the channels and news reports, the coverage was live 24*7. The coverage defied all rules of reporting over a suicide, and worst still there were no rules laid over what was to be written and circulated over social media. A lot of people struggling with mental health issues in times of pandemic such as anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, Post Trauma Stress Disorder, suddenly felt an upsurge in their symptoms and the trigger was too strong for them as their beloved star was no more, and also the media channels reminded of this grief again & again.

Grief over celebrity death is not new, we idolize them, want to be like them, love them, love their work and when such a potential talented person is lost our hopes of becoming like them are also dashed. This why there is an added pain when a successful loveable youth icon like sushant singh rajput is lost. But the mass-grief in this case became that of a denial and media started to speculate if it was a murder. Even after his doctors confirmed about the celebrity facing severe mental health issues, people wanted to remain in denial because denial brought them hope that a person so successful, so famous, could not have possibly taken a tragic step.

Caught in all of these reports was a teenage named Monu. Monu as lovingly the family called him, aged 15 years, was facing a lot of stress when the lockdown suddenly took place. He was giving his annual exams and suddenly in the middle of exam stress came the lockdown. He faced the uncertainty of whether exams would resume after 21 days or not, whether he should keep studying or stop it. For Monu these were no ordinary exams, it was his class 10th boards. 21 days passed away, and lockdown got extended, the tension about his exam, added with Monu being unable to pursue his social life as usual, without any hangout with friends, made Monu a very anxious teenager. He started facing panic attacks, and thinking

Agar main padhna chhod dun aur exams achanak se announce ho jaayein to? Agar main eams mein fail hogaya to? Agar exams announce hogye to mujhe apni life ko risk pe daalke center jaana padega. Agar mujhe coronavirus hogaya aur mai exam nahi de paya to?

The thoughts were many and he could not bear the burden of having these thoughts, losing his sleep and was already exhausted. On the morning of 14th of June, he learned that his favorite star, whom he looked up to, whom he loved, whose news he followed and who was his youth icon was lost due to suicide. The repeated news of suicide of this young actor had disturbed Monu deeply. He could not understand why would such a thing happen?

Monu started feeling more and more panicky each day, as all he saw over social media and media was the passing away of a young actor and all he felt about his own future was bleak and hopelessness.

Monu said to his mother

“Main kahin kho jaana chahta hu, jahan mujhe koi na dhoond paye, mera mann karta hai kahin chala jaun aur kabhi wapis na aaun”

Well versed with symptoms of depression and suicide, Monu’s mother immediately took cognizance of the situation. She asked Monu if he had thoughts of suicide, Monu said, he would often think after watching news in the media, if such a great actor had nothing to look forward to in his life, then he also felt he doesn’t have anything to look forward in future. It was all dark and sad.

Monu’s mother immediately called the counselor and got Monu counseled. Monu had no history of depression or suicidal ideations. It was discovered that repeated news had put a strong impression and he bought the thought from Media itself.

Fortunately Monu was brought from the abyss of these dark thoughts due to the support of his mother, family and friends. He took therapy and even got his anxiety treated. Unfortunately this was not the outcome for many of his young fans. One of his young fan, reportedly in class 10th committed suicide and wrote “If he can do it, why can’t I”

The absolute distortion of how a suicide gets reported in media, Media had now become a medium to trigger mental health issues and sadly suicides too, without taking any responsibility.

As news consuming audience we have to ask ourselves whether we hold media accountable or keep consuming wrongful coverage?

We at Raj Psychology Services, are running a zero suicide campaign and we will be raising our voices to stop suicides and an encourage people to arrange mental health services for themselves and their loved ones.

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