On January 15, Deepika Padukone spoke to Hindustan Times, and revealed that up until last year she struggled with anxiety and depression.
Padukone explained how, while her career was thriving and she was rising to become one of Bollywood's most sought after actors, she was simultaneously battling mental illness.
It began in 2014 when, after fainting from exhaustion, she woke up the following morning feeling "a strange emptiness." Mistakenly identifying the feeling as a symptom of stress, Padukone threw herself further into her work and social life to stay distracted. "But the nagging feeling didn't go away," she said. "Over a period of time, it got worse. When my parents visited, I would put up a brave front because they were worried about me living alone and working long hours."
Once, during a conversation with her mother, Padukone broke down, prompting her mother (Ujjala Padukone) to get in touch with a psychologist – Anna Chandy – and seek her professional help.
After speaking with Chandy, she came to the conclusion that she was, in fact, suffering from anxiety and depression.
"There were days when I would feel okay, but at times, within a day, there was a roller-coaster of feelings. Finally, I accepted my condition. The counseling helped, but only to an extent. Then, I took medication, and today I am much better."
She goes on to tell the Hindustan Times that it was a friend's suicide due to anxiety and depression, as well as her own personal experiences, that encouraged her to speak up about this issue, one that isn't widely discussed in India:
"There is shame and stigma attached to talking about depression. In fact, one in every four people suffer from anxiety and depression.
Overcoming it has made me a stronger person and I now value my life much more. Accepting it and speaking about it has liberated me. I have stopped taking medication, and I hope my example will help people reach out for help.
I feel that at times, the patient just wants to talk, and isn't seeking advice. But, well-wishers saying things like, 'Don't worry, it will all be alright,' might be detrimental.
Being sad and being depressed are two different things. Also, people going through depression don't look so, while someone sad will look sad. The most common reaction is, 'How can you be depressed? You have everything going for you. You are the supposed number one heroine and have a plush home, car, movies… What else do you want?' It's not about what you have or don't have. People talk about physical fitness, but mental health is equally important. I see people suffering, and their families feel a sense of shame about it, which doesn't help. One needs support and understanding."
Since the interview was published, Deepika has received overwhelming support and appreciation from friends and fans. And rightly so.
Even before the interview, she's long advocated the cause of mental health awareness:
Urging people to help those around them.
Even dedicating 2015 to spread awareness about mental health.
Padukone told the Hindustan Times that she, along with her team, is working on a mental health awareness initiative, the complete plan for which will be unveiled soon.