Somy Ali: By sharing her plight, Deepika Padukone changed the entire conversation around mental health in India
Strap: On World Suicide Prevention Day, the former actress turned activist opens up about her search for the talented actor who’s been missing for more than a decade
Former Bollywood actress-turned-activist, Somy Ali, who works closely with rape and domestic victims through her NGO, No More Tears, has never held back from talking about social and mental health issues. However, in the course of sharing her thoughts about suicide and its connection with mental health on World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), it came to light that the actress is on a mission to find a missing actor – Raj Kiran. The talented actor of the 1980s is known for his memorable performances in films like Karz (1980), Arth (1982) and Ilzaam (1986) among others. He reportedly sank into severe depression and has been missing for more than a decade.
“I am keen on knowing where and how Raj Kiran is doing? What happened to him?” asks Somy, adding, “I will not give up on looking for him and this is not a publicity stunt. This is part of my job as a social worker to look into the well-being of those who have vanished into oblivion.”
What triggered off the quest to look out for the actor is the guilt of not having been informed enough to help the late actress, Parveen Babi, who suffered from schizophrenia and died in 2005. Somy says, “Had we made talk therapy a norm years ago, Parveen Babi would have still been alive. She suffered from schizophrenia and no one
cared to help or make an effort to even acknowledge her ailment. The first Hindi film actor to feature on the cover of Times magazine died alone in her apartment with gangrene in one of her legs. To date, I wish I was old enough and had the wisdom to help her with the education I have now. This is why I am keen on knowing where and how Raj Kiran is doing?”
Throwing light on the serious topic of depression, the former actress, who, too, suffered a string of depressive episodes, says, “I would be lying if I told you that I have not had suicidal thoughts intertwined with the most common question: Why are we all here? This is all combined with sadness which is circumstantial. Depression, on the other hand, stems from genetics or literal lack of serotonin that causes an actual chemical imbalance in your brain. Therefore, sadness and depression are two completely different emotions altogether.”
She adds, “My mother and her mother suffer from chronic depression. Unfortunately, it did not skip a generation and so, I suffer from it, too. The only difference is that I decided to major in psychology for my bachelor’s degree and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with an in-depth study of the human mind and behaviour. It helped me a great deal in my 20’s to fight depression and the best way I found that I could heal was to take away others’ pain and sorrows. Hence, I gave birth to No More Tears, following which there was no looking back.”
Somy wants every person suffering from depression to know that there is help out there. She is all praise for Deepika Padukone for initiating the conversation around mental health in India. She says, “Deepika changed the entire conversation when it comes to mental health in India. It is because she shared her plight that people are opening up and talking about it. She made history and I am tremendously proud of her courage.”
She has an advice for today’s youth: have a plan B. She elaborates, “Look at Subhash Ghai – he came to the industry to be an actor, but ended up becoming one of the best directors of his era. In the same way, our youth must have a plan B. Failure at one thing does not mean you will fail at everything. We are all good at something and we can all find our calling if we try. I know I found mine.”
Somy also has a pragmatic solution to thwart suicidal thoughts. “Always think of those who are worse off than you. Life is precious and suicide is selfish because you will be gone, but the ones who loved you and you left behind have to deal with eternal suffering. Ponder on that for a moment or two. Think about your friends and family. You do not want them to suffer, do you?” she concludes.