By Sonya Rehman
Last month, the outspoken Bollywood actor, Kalki Koechlin, created ripples by sharing a dark secret with the world: how she endured abuse as a young child. In an up close and personal interview with the popular Facebook page, Humans of Bombay, Kalki opened up about her excruciatingly painful past to encourage people to speak up about abuse.
However, this is not the first time the actor has openly talked about her ordeal; last year, Kalki spoke with NDTV in detail about her past. This year, ever since the post was published, the news has gone viral, and rightly so. In her recent interview with Humans of Bombay, Kalki stated that the reason as to why she spoke about the abuse wasn’t to garner sympathy or attention, rather, it was revealed with the sole intention to inspire other victims to talk about their similar experiences.
“I felt it was my mistake and so I kept it hidden for years.” Kalki had stated to Humans of Bombay, “If I had had the confidence or awareness to confide in my parents it would have saved me years of complexes about my own sexuality. It’s important that parents remove the taboo around the word sex or private parts so kids can speak openly and be saved from potential abuse.”
“I believe in being myself every step of the way and not hiding my true self from society,” Kalki had further stated.
Just like Kalki, Deepika Padukone has also spoken at length about battling debilitating depression this year – an ailment that she has learnt to live and deal with.
The fact that Bollywood stars are highlighting such important subjects is nothing short of inspiring. Especially when these subjects are considered too taboo to talk about (in our neck of the woods) and also, the fact that there is so much shame attached to sensitive subjects such as abuse and depression.
Interviewed by Barkha Dutt on NDTV (in March, this year), along with her mother, counsellor and psychologist, Deepika had candidly spoken about dealing with depression while in the public eye. “[In] the first initial days, I cried in my room and then I had to go and talk in front of so many people with a smile on my face, like everything [was] okay.”
For Deepika, it was important to come clean and speak about depression, no matter how personal her experience was in dealing with a serious mental health issue. This is because, for the actor, creating awareness, and in turn, aiding those at risk to immediately seek help, is what she hoped to achieve by bringing her condition to light.
Somy Ali, a former actor, and currently, a social worker who runs an organisation (No More Tears) for abused immigrant women in the United States, has continued to speak about her own experience when she was only five-years-old. “When I am invited for a talk at high schools and universities in the US, I share this with the students. I believe sharing my personal experiences would encourage others to speak out and not be ashamed about being a victim,” Somy had stated in an interview.
According to Dr. Saliha Afridi, a Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of a mental health clinic, Lighthouse Arabia, talking about one’s painful past can empower individuals. “It can make them feel like they are part of the solution by doing their part in raising awareness for an issue, and it may help in their healing because they no longer feel shamed by it,” she says, “It can give them a sense of control over something that they hadn’t felt much control of in the past. And it can change their narrative from one of a victim to that of a survivor.”
That being stated, Dr. Saliha stresses on the fact that talking about traumatic incidents can be detrimental to the individual – re-traumatizing them – unless it is done in a sensitive way. Yet, the psychologist states that those in the public eye who speak out about their personal past can have a positive impact on society. “I do believe that when celebrities share such experiences it can help the public in several ways, “ she states, “Firstly, it allows for others who have gone through similar difficulties to feel like they are not alone. Secondly, it removes the stigma and shame from mental illness and trauma and more people are likely to go get help as a result. And thirdly, it raises awareness about it, debunking some of the misconceptions about trauma and mental illness.”