INDIA, Mumbai: Suicidal death of Sushant Singh Rajput aka SSR has taken the world by storm. Bollywood has lost one of its top actors and his fans are in deep grief. Why an actor of his caliber should do suicide? Why the person who was so intellectual, who was a keen student of astronomy and astrophysics should hang himself? Everybody is amused! Why do people commit suicide? We know that social, economic, and psychological problems lead to committing suicide. But what exactly happens in the brain? Or to rephrase the question, what was exactly going in SSR’s brain on 14 June 9.30 AM?
Suicide is a complex malaise. Until 1976, scientists were unable to pinpoint the presence or absence chemical responsible primarily for depression and in extreme cases suicide. Marie Asberg, a Swedish psychiatrist of Karolinska Institute, found a surprising link between serotonin ( a neurotransmitter) and suicide. A low level of serotonin is the biochemical marker for those depressed people who are most prone to suicide. But this is not the only one.
Another chemical GABA (C4H9NO2, Gama-AminoButryic Acid) is one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in the brain. Its role is to inhibit neuron activities in the brain. Researchers found that GABA is underrepresented in the front polar cortex (the front portion of the brain) of people with the major depressive disorder who have committed suicide than with normal people. This frontal polar cortex is involved in higher-order thinking, such as decision making [ see scientificamerican.com/article /the origin of suicidal brains/]. This problem is not due to abnormal or mutated genes but it’s epigenetic.
Epigenetic means some external influence that affects the particular gene function. In the frontal polar cortex of suicidal brains, the gene for GABA-A (one of the many GABAs) receptors often has a molecule called methyl group (CH3) attached to it. This CH3 group hides the gene so that GABA-A receptors do not produce receptors. This is known as methylation. Why this methylation occurs? A recent study suggests it could be related to abuse during childhood or disturbed adolescence ( in the case of SSR, it was the sad demise of his mother when he was just 16).
It is the term used to represent the interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. the first two are embedded in the brain and the last one is the pair of gland situated on the pair of kidneys. This axis has a very complex function. His axis is activated by stress. This forces adrenal glands to produce cortisol which is a steroid hormone. Among other physiological changes, this hormone promotes arousal and attention. This hormone then adjusts the HPA axis in negative control feedback to the original level.
Early Life Adversary (ELA)
Several studies support a strong relationship between ELA and the lifetime risk of suicidal behavior. Early Life adversary (ELA) is the experience of sexual abuse or physical abuse or loss of parents in childhood. HPA is overactive in individuals with ELA which increases methylation and hence reduced Serotonin. (See Nat Rev Neurosci.2014 December by Gustavo Turecki).
Sushant’s Early Life
He was the youngest and the only male child of his family. He was a prodigy from his earliest childhood. He lost his mother due to brain hemorrhage when he was 16. That was the biggest jolt in his early life. In his interview with the DNA magazine, he admitted that his mother called him one night when he was away from his home and was crying inconsolably. She even asked him to come home for some time. However, Sushant said that he couldn’t come back and promised her that he would be there during his vacations. But alas, her mother died soon after and he couldn’t be by her side during her last days. That incidence was haunting him since those days(see dnaindia.com). His immense success in the film MS Dhoni: The untold story, made him miss his mother even more. His Facebook post on 13th Dec 2018, he wrote the lines which reinstated his beleaguered emotion. His last post on Instagram (3rd June) has the same picture of her mother which he had posted on 13th Dec 2018. So, on 3rd June he must have been feeling very alone and rejected. One very curious fact about his social networking site arises. His last post on Instagram is of 30th Sep 2019 and then a conspicuous gap of almost six months occurred. This gap signifies something very disturbing hit him. During this period he complained about mental depression. If the rumor of antagonism of five big production houses against him has any truth value then, this event must have taken place during these six months only. But alone rejection from big houses cannot be the sole reason.
His Intellect was His Downfall
His thirst for knowledge was immense. Even though he left his engineering studies without completing it (as he became very busy with acting on TV), he always searched for the latest in almost every field. His writing gives us a glimpse of this. Ranging from astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, quantum physics, consciousness, ancient civilization, mathematics, chaos theory, extra dimensions, multiverse…phew….and many more. He was a voracious reader. I haven’t found any actor or even any person of his quality of comprehending so many science concepts. If any person goes through all these at once, a huge vacuum is created in mind and you feel absolutely in the dream state (Many scientists have reported such mental state). His costars have praised him for his intellectual mind many times. But this rare quality also isolated him in show world of Bollywood where everything displayed is false and a hoax.
Vincent Van Gogh
His inclination towards Vincent Van Gogh had a very eerie resemblance to his mindset. Vincent Van Gogh, a Dutch painter, had painted 2,100 artworks. He had a troubled childhood and an even more troubled young hood. He committed suicide in 1890. Most of his paintings dating from the last two years of his life. The painting which was in Sushant Singh Rajput’s Instagram post was the painting of Vincent Von Gogh ( it was painted at the time when he was in a mental asylum and during this time he cut his ear off while fighting with another person). He began to paint in dark colors when his senility rose to the maximum. His famous quote “Someday death will take us to another star” must be in SSR mind for many years. Does SSR liking to this particular painting have to do with his inherent understanding of the Universe? Because of his post on 13th Dec 2018, he wrote about his mother “They say you’ve become a star there. maybe you’re the bright red one, or maybe the blue.”
To Sum Up
He must be very depressed on the 3rd of June as his post suggests. From 3rd June to 14th June, his brain’s HPA axis must have been gone out of control. The lockdown had kept him in confinement for almost three months. Childhood memories of his mother must be haunting him more seriously. His troublesome relationships with his previous girlfriends, irrevocable ban by the big production houses must be taking a toll on his mind. And he stopped taking anti-depressant pills. Somebody must be whispering in his mind “Death is the only solution “. A low level of serotonin must be hindering his reason to live. “Someday death will take us to star” “Star is the place where mom resides” “I should go and join Maa”. These thoughts might have crossed his mind moments before he decided to end his life.
Now having aware of his background, rejection, troublesome relationship, and his longing for unknown and mysteries of the Universe, we speculate the following chain of events that might have happened on that ill-fated morning of 14th June—–
9.30 AM – A glass of juice was taken
9.31 AM – Bedroom door was shut
9.35 AM – Dark green colour cloth was tied on the fan
9.36 AM – Noose was formed
9.38 AM – It is the only solution. Future is very bleak.
9.40 AM – Put his head into the noose.
9.41 AM – A last look and a last breath taken
9.41.30 AM – The body hanged and life is no more.
As Amitabh Bachchan aptly put in his Instagram post…WHY? WHY? WHY?…
Now you know why? He didn’t belong to this cruel industry. He was a scientist by nature. Seeker of truth. He was a sage by soul.. but alas! cruel fate has taken him to the unknown, mysterious, another world. Maybe his favourite Lord Shiva called him to HIS abode….Let his soul Rest In Peace. OM SHANTI
Helping Hands Needed
Nearly 8,00,000 people die due to suicide every year according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which is one person every 40 seconds. It is a silent pandemic, more serious than the present pandemic. My personal feeling is that discussing mental health is a taboo subject. We hesitate to talk about it. It is not visible as the other diseases but it can be damaging. The best way to come out of this is to talk, listen, and to care for our near and dear ones,. We alone can stop such incidences by helping others when they are depressed and down. Let us make them cheerful and imbibe positive vibes. WE CAN STOP SUICIDES!
If you or someone you know are depressed, anxious, or having suicidal thoughts then you can contact the mental health organizations which are mentioned below: