Expert speak: Girl, interrupted

Ever since the news about Jiah Khan started doing the rounds, what’s everyone thinking about is what could have driven the young actress to end her life so abruptly. And what’s more alarming is that with every passing year, there seems to be more and more suicide cases being reported in the country. 

Photos: Jiah Khan - Snapshots from the past

Jiah Khan

In a medical study published in 2012, the estimated number of suicides in India in 2010 was about 1,87,000. A large proportion of adult suicide deaths were found to occur between the ages of 15 years and 29 years. Incidentally, of the five lakh people reported to die of suicide worldwide every year, 20 per cent are Indians. 

While in an industry where one-upmanship is rife, there is always pressure to perform. The entertainment industry has always been demanding but to what extent? We spoke to psychology experts to get their views on what could have prompted the 25-year-old to take such a drastic step.

Missing Plan B?
Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist and author, points out the lack of planning in case of professional disasters. “In a metropolitan city like Mumbai, depression often goes undetected. There’s a deep sense of loneliness that even the immediate family or friends can’t see.

Seema Hingorran

Especially, in the case of an actress like Jiah who has seen some instances of success only to face a downward slide in her acting career. So what she didn’t have was a Plan B. Unfortunately, she was left with a Plan A that simply didn’t work.”

Photos: Who was Jiah Khan

Turns out the toughest part in showbiz is not to bag stardom but to sustain it. Johnson Thomas of Aasra, a helpline against suicide, says several factors could have contributed to the actress’ drastic decision. “The young actress in question did seek stardom and even received some with her debut film. Later, she was seen in minor roles. Sadly, the film industry seems great provided you’ve got work and it turns cruel as soon as you run out of work.”

Clinical psychologist Varkha Chulani emphasises on the overwhelming possibility of depression. “From a clinical point of view, we don’t know yet whether it was an impulsive suicide or a depressive suicide.

Varkha Chulani

The former is a phase where a person decides that life is not worth living and the latter is a case of elongated hopelessness. In Jiah’s case, we’ve read about her break-up and struggling career but then she also reportedly went to audition for a Telugu film. Someone with a severe case of depression won’t even be able to think of work.”

Life’s like that
Lata Shenava, counsellor and educator, takes a different route while explaining the more deep-rooted problem related to parenting. “There’s something structurally wrong with the way kids are raised nowadays. For the most part, they are put in a comfort-oriented environment and expected to grow strong, which is impossible. As a result, we see youngsters not being able to face challenges.”  

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