~ The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared loneliness a ‘global public health concern’ exacerbated by isolation and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
~ The play, ‘Jump’, emphasises the need to make the discourse surrounding suicide and mental health issues easy to access and discuss in Indian society.
PANAJI: The Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) is known for tackling serious issues head-on, training a global spotlight on them in a tasteful yet impactful manner.
Maneesh Verma’s poignant yet comedic play, ‘Jump’, which addresses serious themes like suicide, depression, loneliness, self-harm and more, successfully navigates its way through a potentially triggering topic by balancing tragedy with comedy.
Curated by Quasar Thakore Padamsee, the Theatre curator for the sixth physical edition of SAF 2023, ‘Jump’, starring Vidushi Chadha and Sandeep Shikhar, the play also highlighted themes of class differences, fostering connections and being open to looking at the bigger picture from different perspectives.
“The play is a profound clash of nihilism, the belief that life is meaningless, versus existentialism, which explores questions related to human existence, respectively represented by a successful corporate woman’s attempt to take her own life thwarted by a cab driver hailing from a village trying to make a living in the big city,” said Maneesh Verma, the director of the play.
Verma embarked on a journey to make the conversation surrounding mental health issues in India easier to openly discuss by including comedy to make the topic lighter, which also aligned with Padamsee’s curatorial process, leading to the inclusion of ‘Jump’ to the Theatre discipline at the Festival’s 2023 edition.
“Mental health issues still carry stigma and an open discourse is required. It is a global crisis as we are losing so many people to suicide; hence, building awareness around these taboo topics is imperative,” stated Padamsee.
Verma conceptualised the play from a personal point of view, having had a near-death experience last year during a mountaineering expedition which left 27 people dead.
“The incident shook me to my core and made me question everything. The randomness of life was at the forefront of my mind. Humans attempt to logicise everything, which often leads to feelings of hopelessness and purposelessness, which the play confronts,” said Verma.
Acting is an immersive experience, often requiring performers to become their characters which can affect their psyche and personal lives. However, as the entire process was treated with care, protagonists Chadha and Shikhar took away extremely positive and educational experiences.
“As I, too, have suffered from mental health issues and overcome them via therapy, I could relate to the character. Initially, the character did bleed into my personal life but over time, I did separate the two, learning when to plug in and then disconnect,” said Chadha.
Shikhar’s involvement in the play enabled him to dive deeper into and empathise with a topic he had not previously familiarised himself with.
“Theatre raises questions about society for people to think about. I learned to be mindful and responsible towards other people; empathy towards the mental predicaments of those around me was sown because of the topics this play discusses without fear, which I think is beneficial for society at large,” mused Shikhar.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared loneliness a ‘global public health concern’ exacerbated by isolation and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis. The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day celebrated annually on September 10 for 2021-2023 is ‘Creating Hope Through Action’, which is what ‘Jump’ embodies.
According to the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau in August 2022, India registered 1.64 lakh suicides in 2021, rendering ‘Jump’ a timely expression of contemporary society.
Dr Akshada Amonkar, consultant psychiatrist at Healthway Hospitals, Old Goa, gives a Goa-specific context to mental health issues and suggests methods to combat depression.
“For Goans, stressors like societal pressures related to marriage, career expectations and financial stress may be compounded by issues specific to the region, such as the impact of mining closure or a cyclical tourism season and environment, and the diaspora’s influence on family structures and expectations, contributing to higher rates of depression,” she stated.
“People suffering from depression can seek help via psychotherapy — they can visit a psychologist for counselling sessions which include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, individual psychotherapy, coping skills building and more. They can also avail of pharmacotherapy, where clinical symptoms can be treated by a psychiatrist,” said Amonkar.