On June 14, a promising handsome Indian actor, Sushant Singh Rajput committed suicide by hanging himself in his bedroom. It was stated that the actor suffered from depression for the last six months.

His suicide shook people across the subcontinent, and I saw many people shocked and sad at the choice this 34-year-old actor with a boyish charm and an infectious smile made. It seemed like someone close had died and people are questioning if success and money can be trusted as a factor for happiness, amongst many other questions about why he did it.

I had not watched any movie of his but had seen some of his interviews by chance and I remember mentioning to a friend how sad his eyes looked and she mockingly laughed. But sad were those eyes, and maybe as a therapist I read more into facial expressions etc. but that’s a distinct thought I had back then.

Since then, there is a huge protest and many people in Bollywood are blaming top guns like Karan Johar and the Khans and nepotism to be the cause of his suicide. Petitions are also being signed in Pakistan to ban the aforementioned.

The fact is that pinning this suicide to lost opportunities due to nepotism in Bollywood is a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. Let’s try to understand what suicide is, which is a very complex and multifactorial phenomenon.

One of the leading causes of suicide is chronic depression and those silently suffering from untreated diagnosed depression and chronic anxiety are at a higher risk. Also, it would be helpful to understand that self-harming tendencies are present in the individual for quite some time in most cases or suicide ideation which is the presence of thoughts regarding suicide.

When I do suicide risk assessment for my clients who are at a risk, I am looking at whether the client has a passive thought ‘I would rather die’ or a specific suicide plan, which is a red alert. Having said this, I can’t disregard the passive idea either and no mental health practitioner can be fully sure when working with such clients if they will commit or not.

There are predisposing factors dating back to early childhood trauma, familial depression, unhappy early years that were never processed in therapy or spoken of otherwise. Later precipitating factors such as adult life stresses whether loss of a loving relationship, job loss, and financial crisis can be strong triggers for wanting to end one’s life. It’s very rare that only an adult life perpetuating factor causes it, some predisposing factors; impulsive and aggressive traits as well as pessimism rooted in hopelessness will definitely contribute to it. It’s also the lack of protective factors such as social connectedness, supportive family and friends and ideally a mental health professional continuing support.

Look out for these major risk factors to possibly prevent someone close to you committing suicide. Some of these factors include a prior suicide attempt, use of drugs, and self-harming tendencies like cutting, and most importantly mental disorders such as depression or mood disorders. It also includes social isolation by that person or if they know of someone close to them who died by suicide, particularly a family member.

Suicide is one of the 10 leading cause of death in the world. Many of us do not have access to mental health services or can afford to get therapy or go to a mental health practitioner. Especially in Pakistan, there is a huge stigma attached to discussing mental health or for the majority to consider what it means. In this case, family and friends can play a significant role in preventing a close one’s suicide. For that, a few myths about suicide need to be addressed. A more common one is that those who want to end their lives do not say it. Most will have hinted at their intent through their words, threats or change of behaviour. Another is that those who say it are just being manipulative and will not commit suicide and many a times we mock our loved ones for saying it and call them cowards, not realising that we might be pushing them towards it.

Another myth is that if we ask someone if they are intending to end their lives, it will push them into doing it so ignoring it is a stance that’s taken.

Let’s start being more conscious about people we care about. Reach out today to someone you might not have since months. Think about that quiet silent friend or family member that never talks and you might just label them as an introvert and not make an effort to ask them what that silence means for them. Start now. Better be pushy when a friend is sad and alone and support them in silence rather than ignoring them. It’s never too late. You might save a life.

Zara Maqbool

The writer is a UK-CPCAB (Counselling and Psycho therapy Awarding Body) registered individual and couple psycho therapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool

@yahoo.com