Deepika Padukone: “I wasn’t aware of what mental illness was”

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Deepika Padukone has been a major contributor to the mental health conversation in India. With her organization The Live Love Laugh Foundation, she is working towards creating more awareness and support that she had when she was going through a difficult time.

In a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Padukone candidly spoke about her own struggles with her own mental health, which she recognized in 2014 during a family visit. “I just couldn’t stop crying,” she said, “[My mom] asked, ‘Is it your relationship? Is it your work?’ And I said, “No, no, no, none of those things.’ I just kept saying, ‘No, no, no. I don’t know. I don’t why I feel empty.” Padukone’s mother told her to seek help. “There was no conversation, there was no argument.”

“I wasn’t aware of what mental illness was, and I didn’t realize the importance of mental health,” Padukone shared. “When we have a fever, we know what the symptoms are. Why aren’t we taught to recognize the symptoms of mental illness in the same way? It was a lack of awareness on my part, but also on the part of the people around me. What if it wasn’t for my mother? Who else would have helped me?”

Overcoming the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness took Padukone some time. “I had to deal with that stigma on my journey to recovery,” she confessed. “Everyone, including me, was keeping it all so hushed. When people asked me how I was feeling, why did I always lie and say I was okay?”

But now, she is unashamed of these struggles and is hoping to destigmatize mental illness for others as well. “I don’t think I’d be here today if it wasn’t for my mother. I realized the importance of self-care, and when I do it, I do it without guilt. I think women especially have a tendency of doing it with a lot of guilt attached.”

Since the launch of The Live Love Laugh Foundation in 2016, they have launched campaigns such as ‘Dobara Poocho’ (‘Ask Again’) to help Indians to recognize the signs of depression, ‘More Than Just Sad’ to help doctors diagnose mental health issues, and ‘You Are Not Alone’ – a mental health awareness program taught in 655 Indian schools.

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