Life of an Actor From the Perspective of a Psychotherapist
The news of the untimely demise of Indian Film Actor Sushant Singh Rajput has sent shock waves throughout the Indian Film Fraternity and the rest of the world. The cause of his death has prompted many Mental Health professionals to write, blog and speak about the importance of Mental Health and treatment options which are available for people suffering from depression. The purpose of this article is not to stress upon the importance of mental health and wellbeing, but, rather an attempt to understand the lives of actors at a human level.
Most of us see actors as people with super human abilities and often fail to recognize thatthe responsibilities and baggage that are attached to stardom can be quite daunting for most actors. Actors who play lead roles and who have given commercial successes begin to experience being the centre of focus wherever they go. Especially in our country, people tend to go to great lengths just to catch a glimpse of such stars. They often can’t step out of their homes without being clicked by string of Paparazzi’s’. Even at airports, hospitals and at funerals, they are constantly under the lens of the Paparazzi. In addition to this, they have to deal with the crowd and their fans who often go to great lengths just to get a selfie with the actors.
Most people associate actors with the characters they portray in films and expect them to always act and behave like their characters. People are oblivious to the fact that the characters they see in films or on TV have real human beings portraying them. Human beings, who are just like us; they are full of emotions and are vulnerable to emotional fluctuations.
I have seen stars getting out of their cars and being pounced on by a fan for a selfie to be “rudely” brushed off by the actor. Fans need to realize that Actors are human beings too with real emotions. They have the right to express their emotions and can’t be always expected to behave in a cordial manner.
At an emotional level, actors have a tough life. A life which requires dedication, discipline, tenacity and pure love for their profession. Most actors I know personally and at a professional level, have chosen this profession because they love to act. They don’t continue pursuing their career as an actor because of the money or fame. Many great character actors often don’t get the recognition for their craft that they deserve and yet they continue to act for the sheer love and strong passion for the profession.
A commercially successful film does not guarantee work for the lead actor for life. The actors constantly need to keep looking for work. There is often a lengthy process involved for the actor to ensure ongoing work. They need to go through scripts of future roles, appear for auditions and ensure they give what the role demands for them to bag the role.
Even after successful audition, actors are not guaranteed work. They often have to commit months of their time for a film and most films are shot in real locations these days and not in film studios. For films like Lagaan and Sholay, the actors and crew had to live in remote locations and work under extreme conditions (Heat and dust). They are required to shoot at odd hours, at night or early part of the morning and at times need to wait for hours to complete a single shot. Even after putting in so much of work in a film, there is no guarantee that the film will be a commercial success. At times films get shelved and don’t see a release date for a wide variety of reasons.
On many occasions, actors pass on other roles due to a clash of dates of projects and later regret not playing a particular role or being a part of a particular project. Many of the actors have financial stakes in movies too and often need to deal with the financial repercussions of a film not doing well at the box office.
An actor has to deal with so many challenges in life and yet is expected to smile for selfies and for the press constantly. Even psychologically living the life of a character in a film for months can take a toll on the actors. At times the dark shades of a character they need to portray may resonate with a tragedy they have faced in their own lives. This can fill the actor with memories and flashbacks of the event from their lives and can be quite difficult to overcome.
Many actors and stars are constantly worried about how they are perceived by the public and take every possible step to ensure that their public image is not tarnished. I would request all actors to allow themselves to be human and to seek help of mental health professionals wherever needed. I would like to urge the public to be supportive of the actors seeking help from a professional and not judge them.
I was thrilled and relieved to know when Deepika Padukone spoke openly about her struggle with depression and was happy that it did not affect her stardom or reduce the love which she continues to receive from her fans. We are thankfully in a progressive society and I find the younger generation more open towards reaching out for help.
It is important to note that clinical depression is different from occasional low moods. If anyone is constantly experiencing low moods, frequent irritability, unable to sleep at night or not wanting to get up from bed in the morning, losing interest in activities, avoiding social engagements, frequent crying spells. They should get themselves evaluated by a mental health professional. Depression is treatable. Early intervention is critical to treatment. If you notice symptoms, seek help without delay. The key thing is to get yourself evaluated, maintain complete transparency with your doctor or therapist and follow the recommended mode of treatment.
It is important to mention here that just getting yourself evaluated and diagnosed is not enough. Regular follow up with a mental health professional is extremely important, especially during the early stages of treatment. Antidepressants usually take 4-6 weeks to start to fully support a person. The patient’s brain and body go through an acclimatization process during the initially few weeks and it is important for patients to maintain regular contact with their psychiatrist during this phase and in chronic cases it’s important to get the medication reviewed at least once in 6 months to ensure that the medication is helping. I have come across many people who have continued to stay on medications which are no longer effective or necessary for their condition. Hence, please follow the protocol and stick to the treatment regime.
This is equally important for counseling and psychotherapy sessions. Counselling and psychotherapy is not a quick fix solution. It requires time and consistency. It is extremely important to continue with treatment even after you start feeling better to ensure that the goals of therapy can be achieved and you complete the therapeutic process.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Dr Vihan Sanyal