Culture & Lifestyle / Deepika Padukone Opens Up About Her Battle With Depression

Deepika Padukone Opens Up About Her Battle With Depression

Culture & Lifestyle Jan 30, 2015

Once Struggling With Depression, Deepika Padukone Reveals How The South Asian Community Deals With Mental Health Issues. 

No stranger to controversies, Bollywood actress and star of Chennai Express and Happy New Year Deepika Padukone, who had earlier made news and accused media of blatantly objectifying her after the Times of India published a video clip of her promoting her cleavage, has once again become a polemic figure in the public eye. She wrote a confessional tell-all letter in the Hindustan Times about her battle with anxiety and depression in the early stages of her career as an up-and-coming Bollywood actress.

Her recent confession about her mental health speaks volumes about the ways in which the South Asian community — both within the subcontinent itself and in the diaspora — deals with the pangs of mental health diseases such as clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. While Padukone was able to acknowledge publicly in a tweet that “anxiety, panic attacks, and depression are not signs of weaknesses. They are signs of trying to remain strong way too long,” it's hard to overlook the stigma that exists within the South Asian community, especially when it comes to dealing with mental health. While her confession draws attention to the stigma surrounding mental health diseases and how they're perhaps a common battle that many of us go through, you cannot forget the ways these diseases go unacknowledged or unrecognized.
For Padukone, her mother, Ujjala Padukone, proved to be an amazing support system. Ujjala got her started on treatment with two psychologists as soon as she realized her daughter was struggling to shoot for the film Happy New Year and live her everyday life, according to Padukone. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky — especially those without access to medical treatment and counselling, which can help revive a person’s life and help them cope with their mental diseases.

Aamir Khan’s third season of Satyamev Jayate drew great attention to this issue. It presented troubling and unforgettable cases of sufferers of mental illness who were isolated, abused and treated like outsiders within society. This underlined the fact that class, caste, social and economic status, and gender in part determine if someone has access to mental health clinical care. The show highlighted how many sufferers of schizophrenia were chained in their homes and hidden from the eyes of society in order to avoid family shame. Plus, a young woman spoke about how she had to take care of her sister without any help from doctors and society. Treatment doesn't just end with medication but must be part of people's day-to-day routine — and many of us forget about caretakers who live with patients daily.
As Padukone underlines in her letter, “Being sad and being depressed are two different things. Also, people going through depression don’t look so, while someone sad will look sad. The most common reaction is, ‘How can you be depressed? You have everything going for you. You are the supposed number one heroine and have a plush home, car, movies … What else do you want?’ It’s not about what you have or don’t have. People talk about physical fitness, but mental health is equally important. I see people suffering, and their families feel a sense of shame about it, which doesn’t help. One needs support and understanding.”

In agreement with the star, I believe that this health issue needs to be understood and acknowledged so that people who are suffering from these diseases are able to overcome them — or at the very least have a support system to help them cope without becoming victims of stigma and isolation in society's eyes. 

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Nidhi Shrivastava

Nidhi Shrivastava


Nidhi Shrivastava (@shnidhi) is a Ph.D. candidate in the English department at Western University and works as an adjunct professor in at Sacred Heart University. She holds double masters in South Asian Studies and Women's Studies. Her research focuses on Hindi film cinema, censorship, the figure o...