This is the first in the seven-part feature series, She Slays
My name is Raashi Thakran and I am a 22-year-old engineering graduate and mental health advocate. I am currently based in Bengaluru with my family and I am a survivor of suicide loss–about which I’d like to share a story with you all today.
I had a wonderful childhood. My father was in the Indian Air Force, so we were always moving around different cities. My mother was also in the Armed Forces–but she decided to quit her job to take care of me and my younger brother, Raghav.
We had always been a close-knit family and I could share almost anything and everything with my brother. He and I share the same birthday month. In fact, our birthdays are just four days apart–which meant that our mother would arrange for a combined birthday party every year when we were younger.
We would always be very excited about it because it meant two cakes, a lot of gifts, more friends and twice the fun. This still is one of my most treasured memories from childhood.
But things changed in December of 2018…
I was in Mumbai with my family to celebrate New Year’s Eve. We enjoyed ourselves to the core. We have so many videos from that night, including one where Raghav was dancing right next to me–the same person who decided to take his life exactly six days later.
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He was only 18 years old when he gave up on life and committed suicide. It was devastating and shocking as none of us saw it coming. It was like a truck in the rain and in a matter of seconds, he was gone. I still remember the doorbell ringing at 9:00 p.m. and my dad yelling, ”Raghav is gone, he is gone!”.
I remember rushing to the hospital and watching the doctors give up and take him away. I also remember finding a letter but I was so shocked that I couldn’t even process the first time I read it.
I recall calling my mom who was in Bengaluru at the time, trying to suppress my tears, not wanting to let her know what had happened until she got home. I felt numb and broken and completely lifeless. Our lives were going to change forever.
We never found out why he did what he did. But we do know that it wasn’t because of his exams–he was a brilliant student and was not under any pressure. We know now that he was sad and he did a great job hiding it from all of us–including his best friend.
We know that he had been struggling for a long time, but he himself could never understand what was bothering him. He was in pain even when he had everything going on for him. How could he expect others to understand when he himself couldn’t?
His absence made everything insufferable
The months that followed were very hard. I was suffering from crippling anxiety,
insomnia, and grief–all at once. I couldn’t sleep at night, I couldn’t focus on my studies, and I couldn’t stop crying.
There was this one time when I experience a severe panic attack in the middle of the night. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t cry, and I just kept screaming with my mother next to me. I told her that it was all too much for me to handle and that I wanted to get better.
This is when my parents decided to take me to a psychiatrist
My doctor and I worked together on my situation. I took therapy sessions as well as prescribed medications. That’s how I became myself again. My mother found solace in spirituality and my father in supporting the two women in his life.
Another thing that really helped me cope was talking about my grief. I started using social media to talk about my brother and what happened to us. I started talking about my struggle with mental health. This is when other people started coming out to tell me their stories and we formed an online support system.
This gave me a purpose…
I applied for Change.org’s flagship programme, called ‘She Creates Change’. I got selected and started my own petition on their platform asking the Indian Government to launch a national helpline number for suicide prevention.
The response to my petition has been overwhelming. It has received more than two lakh signatures, which means people understand the gravity of the situation.
I’ve realised that I want to pursue psychology so that I can work more diligently towards suicide prevention. I have also launched my own blog, called ‘All About Mental Health’ where I talk about mental health and wellness.
It has been a roller coaster ride so far and life has completely taken a new turn for me and my family. I have realised how strong and resilient one can be in the face of tragedy. And of course, the importance of family and how much I have taken them for granted has also dawned on me.
I can also tell you that grief is not linear. Some days, I talk about Raghav with a smile on my face. And on some days, I find it difficult to get out of my bed. But I have a lot of support from my family and friends–they got me through the worst phase of my life.
I am not ashamed to admit that I am still on medication and that I go for therapy. Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. In fact, mental health is the same as physical health. Is your brain not a part of the body? It baffles me when people try to draw a difference between the two.
In the end, I just want everyone to know that there are people listening to you. You are not paranoid… you are not crazy… you are not overreacting… and most importantly–you are not alone!