Deepika Padukone Brings Attention the Indian Mental Health Stigma

Have you heard of Deepika Padukone? She has recently been becoming globally famous since she acted in “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” alongside Vin Diesel. However, she’s a renowned Bollywood actress and has been India’s sweetheart for years now. She’s a skilled actor, articulate, and is known for being extremely kind. However, that is not why I admire her. In 2015, Padukone became one of the first few Indian celebrities to publicly speak about her mental health. She had been going through a serious case of depression and had to be put on medication. After bravely battling her internal issues, she wanted to do more for those who are going through similar struggles. She decided that the stigma behind it needed to be eradicated.

Padukone explained that even though she was being applauded and appreciated for her work in films, she was going through the worst time of her life personally. When she was ready to speak about it, she was unabashedly honest, which is exactly what Indians needed at that point. In 2018, India was named the most depressed country in the world. The National Care Of Medical Health stressed that at least 6.5% of the Indian population suffers from some form of serious mental disorder. There could be multiple factors behind this: cultural norms, the stigma, the constant pressure placed on men and women, etc. Whatever the reason may be, it’s clear that something must be done to help those in need.

Deepika speaking out did more than just raise awareness, it gave others the opportunity to speak about their own issues. Even if it was for a brief moment, it normalized the conversation. Bollywood actors are worshipped in India. So, when someone as influential as her decides to bring light to a suppressed issue such as mental health, it provides freedom for those who have stayed silent about their struggles.

Via Hindustan Times

Another advantage of the various interviews she has done is that it educates those that may have not been very knowledgeable about mental health. In India, at least in my experience, mental health still equates to “crazy.” Therapy equates to “weird.” Depression equates to “dramatic”. These stigmas become a barrier to understanding what those terms actually mean. One of her more popular interviews was with her and her doctor so that they could discuss what symptoms depression has, how to deal with it, what resources there are, etc. That was her first step towards destigmatizing the issue.

She started the Live Love Laugh Foundation which is a non-profit that offers online lectures about mental health, educational programs, where to find a therapist and other resources, etc. Dr. René Stockman, Superior General of the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity states “From educating more than 100,000 students and 16,000 teachers through the ‘You Are Not Alone’ program to funding treatment for more than 1,500 patients annually, it’s important that we recognize the impact that the Foundation has made and support its continued efforts to destigmatize mental illness in India.”The foundation was recently awarded 35 lakhs (3,500,000,000 rupees) for “Breaking the Chains of Stigma award as well as $50,000 to continue their impactful work. 

Mental health is an interesting paradox as it impacts so many people’s lives, but no one feels the need to speak about it. Use Padukone as an example and speak up! She’s not ashamed of she went through, and neither should anyone else.