By Sugandha Rawal
New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) Ananya Birla feels there is a stigma and fear surrounding mental illness which often isolates people. The singer says people in India are scared to reach out for help because they don’t want to be judged.
The singer, daughter of businessman Kumar Mangalam Birla, has in the past opened up about her own struggle with mental health, and asserts that it is very important for public figures to talk about it.
“The first step in addressing the issues around mental health around the world is to try to stamp out the stigma and normalise discussions about it by talking openly and shamelessly,” Ananya, 24, told IANS over an email.
“People, especially in India, are scared to reach out for help because they don’t want to be judged. The taboo that exists is our biggest challenge at the moment. Mental health is a topic that is rarely discussed and when it is, it is often trivialised. It’s important that people like me, and those in the media, speak out to challenge this,” she added.
“We need mental health to be considered just as important and unashamed as physical health.”
Be it Chris Cornell, Dolores O’Riordan, Chester Bennington, Lil Peep or Avicii — the world has lost some music icons due to mental stress.
But Ananya feels depression can affect anyone.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have success or money — these all go out the window if you’re not feeling right. Sure, situational things in music like being on the road and away from your family, and in many cases easy access to alcohol and drugs plays a big part, but at the end of the day mental health doesn’t discriminate and neither should we.”
Ananya, who has been musically inclined since childhood, continued: “The music industry has a dark history with the tragic loss of too many amazing people to suicide. But it is not just musicians. Depression and suicide rates are on the rise globally.
“In India, one person attempts suicide every three seconds. Not enough is being done and although mental illness is just as common as physical illness, it is surrounded by shame, stigma and fear which isolates people when they need support the most.”
She is doing her bit.
“At the mental health initiative MPower, which I set up with my mother, we want to show people that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. And to let them know that there is help available should they need it,” added the singer, who will soon be seen in an episode of TV show “Twinning” on Sunday.
The show is aired on AXN.
On the professional front, Ananya released her fourth single “Circles” this year after the success of “Meant to be” and “Hold on”.
Looking back, she said: “I’m definitely someone who learns by trial and error. I’ve experimented and figured things out for myself, failed a lot, but always moved forward with more knowledge and a better understanding of myself. I’m a passionate person so I dive-in headfirst.
“There are things I would’ve done differently but I wouldn’t change where I am at the moment or the path I’m heading on.”
She says she is working on a lot of new material.
“Playing with some different styles and even incorporating some more Indian sounds into my music…I’m going back and forth from Los Angeles quite a bit, because the person producing the EP is based there. Hopefully, it will be out early next year.”
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at [email protected])