The recent news about Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has left the entertainment industry shaken. The sudden death of the actor has left people with a lot of unanswered questions and has raised doubts about the industry. Though by now, it is understood that the much-loved star was suffering from depression, this incident has initiated a lot of discourse around the importance of paying attention to men's mental health.
The major factor to blame here could be the patriarchal nature of our society, that takes a toll on women's rights and men's health. Traditions and beliefs put an undue burden, or restrictions, on both men and women, where both are expected to have certain characteristics and behave in a certain way.
The system also refuses to openly accept anyone beyond the diabolical system of gender.
But with changing times, there seems to be a shift in people's attitudes. Over the years, there has been a drift from the age-old belief of the gender-specific roles. There continues to be some amount of pressure that dictates our lives. Gender roles and expectations often lead to unnecessary pressures that affect us all in some capacity.
Apart from society, the media also plays an important role in inducing gender-specific narratives. Women are shown to be more open and vocal about concerns that bother them, but men are often shown in a contrasting light.
Beginning from issues relating to appearance and portraying men as being tough, many intrinsic issues such as bullying, isolation, confidence and others, can also rule a man's life; which may never be spoken about.
Also, a general notion of mental health issue is associated with sheer mental (pagal) are still prevalent in our society.
In an attempt to understand men's perspective on the matter, we asked six men their views the topic, and this is what they had to share.
"Men's mental health or mental health, in general, is something that our society fails to address. There is a general notion that if someone has some issues, he is mental. Which, may not necessarily the case. Identifying that there is a problem is more important than anything else," says Sushobhan Patankar.
A journalist turned professor, Patankar shares, "From my experience, mental health has not been spoken about or even addressed in school, colleges or at home. But over the years from my work experiences, I have gained an understanding of the existence of these issues. It was only after I met a variety of people and spoke to professionals that I gained an insight into the matter."
Talking about dealing with the stress, he suggests, "It is important to have someone to talk to. To deal with stress, I talk it out. Mostly these stresses stem from workplaces, and your family or friends who aren't in office, might not understand it. So it becomes important to have a work-best-friend who you can trust and open up to. It is important to be able to share and talk things out. Be it anxiety or a misplaced feeling about any colleague, having a third-person-perspective always helps.
"For offices, having mental health professionals available and giving people the space to open up is also important," he added.
Looking at a different aspect of mental health and awareness around it, Santosh Kumar Biswal, a professor says, "Mental health is a part of disability that is largely ignored in all aspects. Starting from family, neighbours and even larger societal, it exists everywhere."
"If the disability is one layer of discrimination, then mental disability is a double-layered issue. More so, if you talk about a mentally disabled person, who resides in a rural area. For them, it is almost like triple-layer discrimination," he adds.
The professor holds a PhD in Media and Disability and brings to the forefront, the aspect of mental health as simply a disability to deal with some issue.
"We all know locomotive disability get attention, unlike mental disability. We have so many social taboos and that it is almost like we are unable to understand it. While dealing with such an issue, one needs to be gender and region-specific.
Emphasising on the importance of dealing with stress in the right way, he says, "When I want to get out of the mental tenancy, I chant, exercise, practice yoga. It is also important to talk to people. Having said that I am not undermining the power of self when the power of self is united unless all power has to be bought together, we can mitigate this issue."
In conclusion, he says that our society needs to be more aware of the issue and should be able to address it better.
Alex Michael Binoy, a young media student, says, "Well, awareness about mental health has increased over the years and going to a psychiatrist or a psychologist isn't much of a taboo as it used to be. But, not any men I know has admitted to being mentally stressed or voluntarily decided to meet a psychologist."
"If you have noticed, boys are encouraged from young age to get physically hurt by engaging in physical games/activities. At the same time, we have been taught not to cry or go crying for help..."
"Cause "men deal with their issues themselves "..." he stresses.
Adding to this point, he said "And even in pop culture, you can see that the hero in a movie never goes to anyone else crying for help... In the end, he is the one who needs to deal with the issue himself. That's what we are taught a man should be and cause of less awareness; some think depression is the same as sadness... And no "man" wants to go tell someone that they are "sad", do they?"
Shoubhik Gosh a budding journalist, says that men's mental health or mental health issues, in general, are seen as a sign of insanity or even weakness.
"The first thing for acknowledging mental health is to express your emotions, but that itself is looked down on because men should be strong and carry on," he says.
"Many of my peers have also had problems. I remember incidents of people being humiliated for going to a counsellor. When there's no such space in your initial years, how can you expect it to be there in bigger setups?" he says, sharing his concerns.
Talking about his techniques to deal with stress, he says, "I don't have one method to deal with stress. It can be something like watching movies, drawing, surfing. I even talk to people or just think deep. Sometimes I brood so much on it that I get bored and forget."
Deepak Deshpande, an architect, says that it is essential that we address these issues and normalise the conversation around it rather than wait for people to take drastic measures.
"We need to understand that mental health is not just a one-off issue but an underlying problem that people face daily. We need to understand that there is no shame in needing help, and there is nothing wrong when asking for it."
Deshpande has been battling with depression for a while now, and that has hampered his work-life extensively. "I was scared to open up to my family while admitting that I was seeking help," he said.
"I didn't know how my mother would react," he shared.
Talking about a way forward, he says, "We as aware parents need to initiate conversations with our children and create a safe space. We need to tell them that it is ok to feel bad or be disturbed and take time to resolve things."
"It is a slow process, but I am sure this will happen," he added.
Though people are aware that an issue needs to be addressed, it might not be enough. Ajay Kapoor, a young copywriter, says, "I think there is certainly more awareness and acceptance of the issue, but in my opinion, everyone still needs to be a lot more emphatic towards someone who is going through this."
Battling the stereotypes and accepting a newer approach towards mental health is as important as dealing with the pandemic. Many men face similar issue but often resort to isolating and even shutting down. But is this the right way to deal with it?
Creating a holistic environment for everyone around us is crucial and should be worked on.