Barkha, Sushant is NOT the opportunity to spread awareness about mental health! I explain why.

Disclaimer: I am not making any criminal allegations and I am NOT talking on behalf of Sushant Singh Rajput’s father (my father in law). This is an independent opinion and is a response to what was presented by Barkha Dutt (allegedly an audio recording of Susan Walker Moffat, who is alleged to be Sushant’s psychotherapist).

I have been watching everything from the sidelines and analyzing the discussions happening around my brother-in-law’s death.

sush2

Sushant and I in 2014. I saw him last in person in July 2017 on my trip to India.

Sushant and I had a very healthy relationship and most of our conversations were around books and movies. I have known him since 1997 (my 8th grade) since his sister Shweta (my wife now), he and I went to the same school. Shweta and I were in the same grade and he was a grade junior. Whether you believe it or not, he was charming but shy and was known more popularly as Shweta’s little brother amongst my batchmates. Shweta and I had a little bit of chemistry and some batchmates teased us as “Jija-Saala” when we sat together on the school bus. That eventually was proven true in 2007 (thanks to the amazing coincidence that I went to IIT Madras for my undergrad and my wife went to NIFT Madras for hers, which gave us the opportunity to stay in touch and we eventually tied the knot in 2007).  I had moved to the US in 2006 but stayed in touch with Sushant until early 2019 and then we lost touch. Now I can make sense of perhaps what transpired and his loss has left me with immesurable grief.

I am a feminist and I care about women’s issues. My first point is that caring about women’s issues is not incompatible with filing criminal charges against a female suspect. Calling criminal charges against Rhea misogynistic is an incorrect assessment of the situation. While on average, more men tend to engage in criminal behavior, criminality is not outside the purview of women.

My second point is that I do personally believe that there should not be a “special” stigma around mental health issues. Just like physical health, mental health is also an outcome of biology and the environment. The reason I said “special” is that it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate stigma from health issues. For eg., if there is a person suffering from diabetes, there will be some amount of stigma about his/her lifestyle even if this person was genetically predisposed. Similarly, whether we like it or not, there is no country in the world where stigma around mental health is zero. I live in the United States and there is a tremendous amount of stigma around mental health here. So, even if we are able to bring down the “special” stigma, we might not be able to completely eliminate it. However, since there is an enormous amount of stigma today, mental health information is protected by the law of the land. Disclosing mental health information by a psychotherapist/psychologist is not only unethical but also illegal (except for certain circumstances which don’t apply here). I leave it to my father-in-law to press charges on this matter.

My third point is a question on the validity of Susan’s claims. Diagnosing mental disorders is an arduous task and diagnosing someone Bipolar (I or II) is even more so. Not only do you have to observe the person very closely, but you also have to observe them over long periods of time (it takes six years on average to diagnose after the onset of symptoms). Susan very conveniently diagnoses Sushant in less than two months (perhaps over a couple of appointments), with a life-changing diagnosis. And then she has the audacity to disclose this information in the public domain. If we are to believe Susan, another thing which does become clear is that it was Rhea indeed who was seeking treatment for Sushant and not Sushant himself. Prior to October/November 2019 (and certainly prior to meeting Rhea), as far as I know, no one who has lived with Sushant has ever complained about his mental health, nor has Sushant himself.

My fourth point is questioning Rhea’s role in the matter. I am not using any special information and I am quoting everything available in the public domain. The FIR claims that Sushant was perhaps given psychotropic drugs by Rhea (maybe even without his knowledge). Covert/Surreptitious medication is also perhaps illegal in the 21st century. There could be many explanations of this sudden onset of mental health issues in October/November of 2019. This could be a result of covert medication and withdrawal of psychotropic drugs (perhaps the covert medication stopped during their Europe trip in October 2019 [perhaps because of eating out mostly so no opportunity to covertly medicate him with food? or perhaps intentionally not medicating?], which led to withdrawal symptoms).  And then, he was perhaps taken to the psychotherapist under the pretext of care. Another surprising thing is that setting up appointments and being present at the appointments (both done by Rhea) could be a sign of keeping a tab on Sushant’s conversations with the psychotherapist and keeping evidence of mental health issues so that it can be used later for blackmail or to justify the firm control on his resources. If what was bothering him was Rhea’s gaslighting and blackmail, Sushant probably was not given that privacy to discuss. The more important mental health discussion here could be that of Narcissistic Personality Discorder and/or sociopathy/psychopathy for Rhea.  Sushant seemed to have suffered gaslighting at the hands of Rhea, based on the information in the public domain. Antisocial Personality Disorder is the more technical term for sociopathy/psychopathy and could be potentially diagnosed for Rhea (I am not diagnosing, only suggesting). Based on what happened, gaslighting seems to fit the bill, in addition to other methods of confinement and control. Again, I have every right to question based on the information in the public domain and unlike Barkha Dutt, I am NOT privy to the statements from Rhea’s psychotherapist and I am not disclosing private mental health information. Based on the evidence in the public domain so far and the claims in the FIR, Rhea is the prime suspect in this case. It will indeed be a shocking surprise to the entire nation if it is found in the court of law that she was a loving partner and not an opportunist who eliminated most of Sushant’s ties with his family and friends. 

My final point is that of disappointment in Barkha Dutt in this matter. Please understand that I am not attacking all her work. I am very disappointed with the path she chose in this matter. Unless proven in the court of law that Sushant took his own life because of a mental illness that happened without any foul play (gaslighting, blackmail, covert medication, or overt overmedication), this is NOT the example to use to create awareness around mental illness. Even if proven in the court of law, the only thing that can be even remotely used is the awareness aspect of it with the intention to help and never the intimate details of the diagnosis or disclosure of diagnosis from the mental health professional.

Barkha Dutt could have chosen to emphasize the financial angle. Most crimes have a financial angle and when there are so many pointers (from regular cash withdrawals and large expenses to shell companies), she chose to NOT focus on them and that does reek of agenda.

As a fellow feminist and an intellectual, I am very disappointed today and you will lose a lot of credibility amongst your readership. You still have an opportunity to amend by reflecting on the choice you made and perhaps apologizing for not deliberating on this enough before hitting publish. Perhaps, that will restore some trust in your journalism. Please understand again that this is not a personal attack but an expression of disappointment in the approach you took in the aftermath of our beloved Sushant’s death.

325 thoughts on “Barkha, Sushant is NOT the opportunity to spread awareness about mental health! I explain why.

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  7. For someone going through depressive episodes or hypomania from a bipolar diagnosis, more often than not stability provides better results. So do long standing relationships. These were clearly not afforded to Sushant by deliberately distancing him from his longest standing relationships with family. Removing the other relationships around him and replacing them with individuals of Rhea’s choosing only prove attempts to destabilize him. Rhea doesn’t have an intellectual capacity nor degrees to match his level of intelligence. In some videos from her earlier years she talks of wanting to hurry up and get out of school to pursue a life of glamour. Note she doesn’t talk of pursuing a creative path nor artistic expression. That Ankita describes Sushant being far more interested in creative and artistic expression over money, fame or glamour proves a healthier attitude than the unhealthier attitude of pursuing glamour. Rhea’s admission in these videos of not wanting to grow up and remain a child are eyebrow raising. She clearly continues to act childlike as a means to an end. Moreover, her own stunted mental growth and capacity must make her want to climb the social ladder as evidenced by her dating history of pursuing Sonam Kapoor’s brother and Aditya Roy Kapoor. It is much harder to execute your agenda when men like that are surrounded by familial support whereas Sushant was a much easier target for Rhea since his support system didn’t include as many family members around. A man from out of town who has made it was easier for her to set her sights on because she wasn’t exactly getting any closer to her dreams of glamour. If one is expected to take care of another individual, where is the time for shopping sprees of the magnitude Rhea indulged in. It was truly an indulgence on her part, one she has longed for and hankered after for long. Most importantly, the manner in which she speaks to him in some footage smacks of being rude, pushy and controlling because even the most childlike manipulations give way to true colors. No one can keep up an act for too long. What’s most startling is the company was named Rheality after such a new and short relationship. Rhea uses it as a hashtag in her modeling posts on Instagram. Was it really set up to capture her modeling? Why would Sushant do that? Also moving that fast in a new relationship for all of her family members to perpetually be in his life with zero bonds or introductions to his side of the family is most irregular and suspect. People simply do not have that dynamic in healthy relationships. Rhea also follows some pretty strange individuals on Instagram like psychics. Her mother has long believed in such nonsense and other odd beliefs with doing havans to ward off evil spirits. And her dad is a doctor. He had access to medications too. There were reports that the pharmacists was taken aback at what was being filled by prescription.

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    • I am left spellbound at the way you have penned this down vishal bhaiya……….you have beautifully and gracefully wrote a commendable justification not only as a family member but also as a human being ……I being a doctor can vouch for your explanation which is 100% right…hats off to u…cheers!!! strength to uncle and sisters and family
      #Justice will seek its wings
      #strength and prayers for family, frenz and fans
      #we all are with you
      #God is with truth
      #united4SSR

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      • 1. I am afraid the same logic also applies to Rhea Chakraborty as well…but she is guilty untill proven innocent.
        2. Your ideas are mostly based on information available in public domain and we know already the quality of information that is available there.
        3. The fact if true that Rhea isolated him speaks a lot about his family members who could not establish contacts like we usually keep with our families. (Even if the bhabhi’s don’t like)
        4. I agree doctors should not disclose confidential information about patients but you also conveniently ignored the responsibility of journalists like Arnab etc. slandering a woman. (And you say you are a feminist?)
        5. Is it because the family wants to fight it out as SSR’s money is involved? Or is it the attention that the media is giving feels nice and relevant?

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    • I am extremely proud of Vishal Sir…for succinctly putting out the flawed, insensitive and absolutely unethical journalism that was on display. Sensational journalism and a one dimensional approach to feminism is the reason the society has become so toxic. I am a feminist myself…an ideology which is there to eliminate patriarchy and not encourage crime.. the misuse of the otherwise laudable #metoo movement is an example of the same. I was so shocked to see Barkha’s irresponsible journalism… I understand Sushant’s family must be devastated…. and must be craving for some peace and closure…. so I am not suggesting anything but otherwise it’s a clear case of defamation and breach of privacy. They can press charges on these counts.
      Also let me deal a bit more into “privacy”… an almost alien concept in India. It has been now endorsed by the Honourable Supreme Court as a Fundamental Right of every person. Whether I want to go for an abortion or go to a sperm bank to purchase sperm….its absolutely private. No one can compel me to disclose my marital status if I don’t want to…. it’s clearly my domain. I am absolutely appalled at this level of journalism and intellectual depravity. Disgusting

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    • You forgot to mention Mahesh Bhatt whom Rhea used to discuss Sushant’s mental health. Who has given the right to Rhea to discuss these things with Mahesh Bhatt?

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    • @Reena Hukmani, You forgot to mention Mahesh Bhatt whom Rhea used to discuss Sushant’s mental health. Who has given the right to Rhea to discuss these things with Mahesh Bhatt but not with Sushant’s own family members?

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  16. Dr Susan Walker is a psychologist /psychotherapist. Psychologists and psychotherapists are not medically licensed to diagnose or medicate /treat psychiatric illnesses like bipolar disorder. Only a psychiatrist, who is a doctor, is authorized to do so and psychologists can only provide supporting behavioral therapy.

    Also, there are very few good psychiatrists in India, let alone in Mumbai. Some psychiatrists in Mumbai have a habit of diagnosing a surprisingly large number of people with bipolar disorder and overmedicating (which is then often struck down by other seasoned psychiatrists as misdiagnosis).

    Also hypnotherapy (one of the skills listed by Dr Walker) is alternative medicine and IMHO, a practice used by quacks not doctors.

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  18. Thank you for this; this article was much needed for those who are unable to understand the social and health implications of such irresponsible reporting. To those who are claim that the psychologist and journalist are only trying to help the case: it is not clear how. Whether the statements are true or false is a separate matter altogether. But what is certain is this: Breach of confidentiality is punishable by law according to the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 by imprisonment or fine or both.

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  37. I will preface this by saying that at first I thought this was just death by suicide from someone who was depressed. The way it spun out of control and took on a life of its own in the following days and weeks, with each day bringing a new conspiracy, concerned me. When the acting community, the mob and the government were all implicated in turn, I told my friend that if people aren’t careful, this could become the next JFK assassination-style fixation, with a web of 1000 suspects, a constantly-growing narrative, and everyone absolutely sure that their theory is what actually happened.

    I always said that for me to believe something untoward happened beyond a pretty cool dude tragically taking his own life, there needed to be believable means, motive, and opportunity. Until recently, none of the theories flying around convinced me that these criteria could be satisfied, because even I is a complete layman could poke holes in 99% of them. And each new person trotted out by the press threw up more contradictory statements. But perhaps it can be plausible if the investigation is focused on Rhea.

    Toxic relationships and manipulation can have any number of effects on the people involved. People can exert control over others, people can be manipulated to do things for others that they wouldn’t ordinarily do, and isolating one’s partner from their family can increase this control. This is a line of inquiry that I can easily follow along a believable path. Rhea was initially questioned for 9 hours apparently, according to the press, but I think there needs to be another interview. Even if it was just an accidental death, if she was criminally liable in any way, such as giving Sushant medicines that either he wasn’t prescribed or beyond his dosage, they need to find this out. Clarity needs to be brought to this case. For everyone’s sake. And especially for the family’s sake.

    If she had a criminal motive, find it out. Even if she wasn’t doing anything criminal and this was just a toxic relationship gone bad, find it out. If it was a question of money (which seems likely at this point), find it out. For everyone involved….just find it out.

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  39. May I add that the kind of mainstream media coverage that is happening is not just unethical but also illegal because the case is under investigation and the media, by disclosing and discussing (threadbare in public) critical evidence, is capable of influencing the ongoing investigation. I can’t believe they are displaying his bank account statements on screen, openly discussing private medical records, cross examining /asking leading questions to key witnesses, speculating (and sensationalising) medical, professional and personal matters. It might be worthwhile explore filing an application in court requesting a ban on media coverage until the investigation is on. It’s despicable the kind of things being written and said on another person and family’s tragedy to increase their viewership/revenue and every single media house is culpable of crossing all lines.

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  49. Playing the devil’s advocate

    As a psychiatrist ,here are some of my observations on some of the points made by you. I am saddened by the meaningless loss of a young man with unlimited potential.
    However, I believe that we cannot absolve ourselves of our collective failure as a society to acknowledge and accept mental illness by projecting the blame on an easy target.
    “(it takes six years on average to diagnose after the onset of symptoms)“

    I am not sure if your statement is based on statistics but Even so this is assuming that his symptoms only started in 2019. Many young adults with milder symptoms of hypomanic get by without any major depressive episodes and are undiagnosed until adulthood when stresses and responsibilities add up.
    Careful eliciting of history usually reveals low grade hypomanic episodes characterized by cyclical periods of high energy, increased productivity,creativity , decreased need for sleep and increase in goal directed activities – imagine an energizer bunny.
    Personally it has not taken more than 2 to 3 sessions to diagnose Bipolar Disorder as we tend to keep it high in the list of rule out diagnoses in cases of severe depression with psychosis.
    Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder is most certainly complicated but that is what we do for a living and I dare say we are good at it.

    “questioning Rhea’s role in the matter and Covert/Surreptitious medication.“

    This to me seems the least credible of all arguments. In my 10 yrs of experience as a psychiatrist, I have never once been successful in persuading an adult to take medications he or she does not want to take.So much so that my motto is to wait ,monitor and not broach medications until they themselves recognize the need for treatment.
    I think it is highly unlikely that a smart and educated man can be given medications without his knowledge. Despite being a psychiatrist I would have to undertake considerable research and be a genius in pharmacology to pull off anything close to that.I have only seen it happen on TV or movies.
    I can’t think of any psychotropic medications that can induce such severe withdrawal or psychotic symptoms unless the person was abusing illicit drugs.

    “keeping evidence of mental health issues so that it can be used later for blackmail or to justify the firm control on his resources.”

    This in itself is point of discussion in mental health. So the fear and shame of being exposed of having a psychiatric disorder is so terrifying that it would force someone to commit suicide ?
    People are assuming that the involvement in his care indicates malice. Let me ask you this. If your partner Started exhibiting signs of paranoia or depression, would you not like to be a part of the treatment and if need be administer the medication yourself? Your partner’s mental health affects every aspect of your life as well.Should one then assume that you were just keeping tabs to use the information for blackmail and secretly administering harmful medicine?
    This is an issue here only because he was a successful wealthy actor and she a struggling actress with limited resources?

    “The more important mental health discussion here could be that of Narcissistic Personality Discorder and/or sociopathy/psychopathy for Rhea. “

    Personality disorders take years to diagnose and need evidence of persistent abnormalities in every sphere of life since early development to support it.I doubt we have that much information to do so.
    While mood disorders like bipolar disorder only take symptoms to diagnose, personality disorders require an analysis of the sum and substance of all of a person’s life experiences to diagnose.
    Ironically you feel comfortable offering a diagnosis based on hearsay but question the assessment of a trained professional.

    “It will indeed be a shocking surprise to the entire nation if it is found in the court of law that she was a loving partner and not an opportunist who eliminated most of Sushant’s ties with his family and friends. “

    On the contrary ,it would be simplest and the most likely explanation of all.I have seen many instances of loving partners struggling to deal with their partner’s psychiatric problems. However, well meaning you can only do so much to ensure that your loved one gets treatment.
    It is also common for a person to suffering from mental illness to withdraw from the world- partly because of the depression and partly because of the fear of not being accepted.I can already play in my mind what family and friends often say to my patients .”Just get over it. You don’t need medications. They are harmful. You just need exercise and yoga”.So it is not surprising that they feel the less people who know about it the better.
    It is not uncommon for someone to stop treatment once their symptoms start improving because let’s face it, who wants to be the ‘ weak guy who needs medications’ ? This often leads to burnout of the partner who is taking care of them.
    Going through all the emotional turmoil , the medication trials, therapy and now back to square one.

    “ disappointment in Barkha Dutt in this matter.
    I think it is necessary to bring forth both sides of the argument.It is unreasonable to expect a journalist to apologize for not covering all possible aspects of an issue. It certainly would be ideal but they can only do what they can.If truth is what we want we must welcome all information and not just what fits our own narrative,especially if there is no reason to Question the qualifications and credibility of the professional.

    “Disclosing mental health information by a psychotherapist/psychologist is not only unethical but also illegal”

    This is a valid point but a separate legal and ethical issue.It still does not mean the information is incorrect.

    “Unless proven in the court of law that Sushant took his own life because of a mental illness that happened without any foul play (gaslighting, blackmail, covert medication, or overt overmedication), this is NOT the example to use to create awareness around mental illness.“

    If an individual commits suicide , it is a matter of mental health.Unless you are suggesting that it was a staged murder,
    the state of mind of the individual at that time is a matter of utmost importance.It is a psychiatrist’s worst nightmare and there is always a lesson in it on prevention of suicide.Every second before someone takes their life is a potential point of intervention.

    “I am a feminist and I care about women’s issues.”

    Consider this scenario ,assuming that we set aside our fear and shame of mental illness, look at it objectively.

    1.Man starts dating a woman and
    6 months later he gets depressed

    Assumption:
    Man changed after he started dating her because she was controlling ,toxic and isolated him from family despite the fact that she is neither socially connected ,intellectually or financially superior to him.

    2.He is hospitalized multiple times and is under psychiatric care.
    Assumption:
    This was a part of a convoluted conspiracy to consolidate control over him and his finances .Possibly involving multiple psychiatrists, therapists and anybody else who thought the man was depressed.

    3.Woman participates in treatment and makes sure he takes medications as prescribed by his doctor.

    Assumption:
    She was doing so with ulterior motives and only to black mail him later.Possibly medications were swapped for some nefarious substance.

    4.Man starts to get better and then stops medications.Woman leaves home ,possible break up.

    Assumption:
    She left him because she did not care enough about him , having already used his resources which might involve embezzling crores of money.

    5.Multiple events happen including death of a known person , family member visiting and man ends his own life when left alone.

    Assumption:
    This is likely the end result of the elaborate conspiracy that was started by his girl friend.

    Now consider for just a second that there is no shame in having a mental illness and that all women who marry men who are wealthy are not gold diggers just because they express a more forceful / brash personality than what is expected of a conventional idealized Indian woman.
    All men are agents of free will and just as they are lauded on their success in life, they are also responsible for other suboptimal decisions in life .
    Things might start to appear somewhat simpler.

    Guilty until proven innocent ?

    Consider for an instance that the situation that you consider highly unlikely is indeed true and that Sushant indeed had a loving well meaning partner, what then would be the outcome of this widespread shaming , trolling and public slandering of this young woman of limited resources? Society is much less forgiving of women than men.
    Another mental health crisis and a suicide ?.Who should be held accountable for abetment of that? Things would come a full circle.I refuse to believe that this would bring justice to the life of a man who is said to have been a free thinker , a scientist and a realist.

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    • Beautifully put Sukanya. Urge you to post as a brand new comment so that more people see this. This is important and needs to be said.

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    • I’m incredulous that a psychiatrist would never have witnessed severe discontinuation syndrome when patients cease use of benzodiapines, SNRIs, antipsychotics, barbituates, etc. – or that a psychiatrist has never heard of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy*, slipping Rohypnal into drinks undetected, or using Depakote sprinkles in food – in other words, masking the use of drugs on unsuspecting people?

      *Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury in a person under his or her care, such as a child, an elderly adult, or a person who has a disability. Because vulnerable people are the victims, MSBP is a form of child abuse or elder abuse.

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