Sushant Singh Rajput: Bollywood actor's death fuels mental health debate

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Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput during the promotion of his film Detective Byomkesh Bakshy at HT's Fever office, on April 1, 2015 in Mumbai, IndiaImage source, Getty Images
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Sushant Singh Rajput's death was met with an outpouring of grief

The death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput on Sunday has sparked fresh discussions about mental health.

The 34-year-old actor was found dead in his Mumbai home, in what police said appeared to be a case of suicide.

The news was met with an outpouring of grief by fans and other Bollywood stars with the conversation soon turning to mental health and depression.

Actress Deepika Padukone, who has talked openly of battling depression, said it was important to reach out.

"Talk. Communicate. Express. Seek help," she wrote on her Instagram account. "Remember, you are not alone. We are in this together. And most importantly, there is hope."

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Anushka Sharma, who co-starred with Singh in the film PK wrote, "I'm so sad and upset knowing that we lived in an environment that could not help you through any troubles you may have had."

Many others talked about how difficult it was to talk about mental health issues in India, due to a lack of understanding about it and the taboos surrounding the topic.

"The conversation about mental health in India is miles from where it should be. Many people mourning Sushant's death today snigger and gossip when someone known to them sees a shrink," tweeted Rahul Sabharwal, city editor of The Indian Express newspaper.

Another social media user, Noreen Wozar said, "Mental health really needs to become more prioritised in Indian households rather than being taboo and the - if you're depressed, "just get over it" mentality."

However, Dr Soumitra Pathare, the director of Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, told the BBC that while it was important to have conversations around depression and suicide, he warned against conflating the two, especially in a country like India.

"Research data says that in UK and Europe, depression accounts for about 80% of suicides. But data from places like India show that there are many other reasons that someone will take their own life," he said, adding that the demography for suicide in the country was also very different.

"For instance, suicide is the number one cause of death in younger women. Many are impulsive and we have found that domestic violence is a major cause. Similarly, exam pressure among children under 18 is a leading cause, and of course there are economic causes like those that cause farmers to take their own lives in rural India," he said.

Popular for his acting in both TV and film, Rajput is perhaps best known for MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, where he played the legendary cricketer.

His funeral will be held later on Monday.

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