The eerie co-incidence of talented individuals meeting with a tragic end

On September 9th, one of India’s budding talents, pianist Karan Joseph, died under mysterious circumstances. While prima facie, his death was declared an act of ‘suicide’; many questions have yet to be answered. Karan, popularly known as ‘mad-fingers’ in close circles in Bengaluru, was said to be a musician par excellence. In reports, family and friends describe him as a ‘simple, humble, and gentle’ human being. While media reports divulge that Karan was battling depression before he jumped to his death, those close to him refute the reports and await a fair investigation.

Whatever the case maybe, the truth remains that yet another gifted performer is forever lost. Why do the most talented individuals meet with some of the most tragic ends? Is creativity a blessing or a burden? Or is the pressure of being a powerhouse of talent in an otherwise bourgeois, mundane world not for everyone? Is the pressure of success and failure too much for some people to handle?

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Growing up, I always wondered why perfectly healthy, famous, popular and ‘rich’ celebrities would ever resort to ending to their lives in the most unceremonious way. The recent death of Chester Bennington, lead singer of the hugely popular band Linkin Park exacerbated my curiosity. Turns out, there was a distressing explanation left for me to discover. Karan Joseph’s death once again draws me towards the numerous talented performers who either died under mysterious circumstances or chose to put an end to their suffering — a suffering commonly termed as depression by the standards of psychiatry.

From American novelist Ernest Hemmingway to actress Marylyn Monroe, from grunge musician Kurt Cobain of Nirvana to comedian Robin Williams, all those who committed suicide due to depression, were some of the rarest and brightest talents witnessed in this century. Most recently, the immensely talented actress Deepika Padukone has also spoken about her episodes of depression and how she battled it. While to the world she must appear to be the epitome of strength and success, she has had her personal demons to battle. I’m also predisposed to believe that it takes great strength of mind to realize ones potential, develop it and choose a path of success, or failure, as it may turn out. It is then paradoxical that those blessed with immense talent should turn out to be faint-hearted when it comes down to braving the odds. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution claims that only the strong survive. Yet, throughout history some of the strongest thinkers have been victims of depression. In the face of world leaders experiencing depression, what is the one factor that sets apart those in a creative field?

Here’s a plausible explanation from what I gathered of my research on the Internet. Though there may be several factors, the one explanation most psychologists and psychiatrists agree upon is that depression is further amplified in those who tend to ruminate on their thoughts. All the same, it is imperative to ruminate if you are to think like a creative genius. This basically entails looping through experiences of all kinds over and over again until the dots can be connected and presented to the world in an acceptable form. Naturally, those who are creatively inclined tend to think more so that they better themselves each time. Rumination subjects the brain to several painful experiences. Where an average person may not dwell upon those experiences for long periods and might easily forget (a virtue on the basis of which they are categorized as average), the creative mind tends to replay the experiences multiple times which leads to manic episodes of feeling lonely, hopeless or a failure. It is when such a person fails to bounce back from the slump that rumination ceases and depression takes over.

Depression does not give birth to creativity. Conversely, creative individuals who think a lot tend to get depressed. Those who cannot come to terms with depression resort to extreme measures. Unable to handle their own thoughts, they resort to alcoholism, drug abuse and, in extreme cases, ‘suicide’. I half-heartedly conclude that ‘thinking too much’ is the root cause of suicide. Suicide, though seemingly abrupt in itself, could in fact be a subconsciously premeditated act. The most probable reason behind the death of so many creative individuals the world has known.

Notice a person in your family or your friends undergoing similar patterns of behaviour? Wait no longer and ask if everything is alright.

Do you agree with the view in this column? Let us know your stance on depression, suicide and how best you think it can be prevented.

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