Actress Shruti Haasan has been very open about the need to look after mental health in previous years. Especially in the time of the pandemic she has been giving more stress on the topic. Talking about the need for professional guidance in such cases, the actress says she has been in therapy when she was younger and yet, being a part of an industry that can frequently be high on the stress factor, she still feels inadequate on many days.
Shruti believes it is important to be aware if someone needs help over mental health and not brush the topic under the carpet with an “I am fine” attitude.
“Mental health is really simple and really complex at the same time. I always use this example that if you have a stomach ache, you will have ajwain or yogurt and avoid spicy stuff on the first day. On the second day you will say, ‘ok, let me take medicine’, but on the third day when you are still in pain, you will go to the doctor and seek help. At that point no one in your family says, ‘hum hai, tum doctor ke paas kyun ja rahe ho’ (we are here, why would you need a doctor)?” she explains.
“I see that as the whole problem because of how the fam jam scene is in India. It’s like ‘you have your cousins, your friends, why can’t you talk to me?’ I understand the sentiment but when it comes to mental health, the worst attitude you can have is ‘chin up’ or ‘I am fine’,” she adds.
Highlighing the issue of many people not even aware of the help they need the actress says,”The cracks start happening and usually I see people have what I call ‘mild breakdowns’. Usually, people don’t even realise what they are going through.”
“The feeling of inadequacy can be so overwhelming and, mind you, I was a psychology student and dropped out but continued studying psychology. I have friends who have therapists. I have been in therapy when I was younger and still when it comes to managing my emotions and sensitivity, in an industry that is very heightened in every sense — be it stress or creativity — I felt inadequate on many days. It took me a while to say, ‘I just need a bit of me-time’. It’s not an easy thing but me having this opportunity to speak about and somebody reading this that is how the change spreads” the actress adds.
Shruti has been using the lockdown to make new music and doing whatever makes her happy. “I must say that I have always spoken about mental health. This is something that when I acknowledged, my life changed. Acknowledging things about myself and getting the help I needed without feeling imperfect, inadequate or judged. Mostly, there is society’s judgement and stigma around. But when the pandemic hit, everyone started talking about it because it had to be discussed. People were feeling a sense of loss — loss of financial security, love and control,” The actress says emphasizing that her life changed when she acknowledged the need to seek help.
Talking about the amount of awareness about mental health in India she says, “I believe people world over are a lot more aware and, especially in India, people are a lot more speaking about it. I genuinely believe that mental health awareness has come to the forefront. There are so many avenues for people to understand that you can get help online because of the distance. People know how to use technology — be it through zoom calls or skype calls. I was always doing therapy long distance because my therapist was based out of London. So, I always knew that it is possible once you have made that initial connection,” cocludes the actress.