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Anaa’s Alamdar Khan urges Pakistanis to face depression stigma

November 13, 2019
Singer hopes conversations start around mental illness with new song

We tend to think that beautiful people do not suffer. Their zen Instagram feeds mask their lived reality where all kinds of messy things happen. And yet, mercifully, some beautiful celebrities are increasingly using their power as influencers to be honest about painful experiences so we realise human suffering is quite universal.

One of the characters of hit television drama Anaa is Alamdar Khan (he plays Saif). Alamdar is a beautiful man, almost a cross between Keanu Reeves and Joaquin Phoenix, which is why it is almost hard to imagine he wants to talk about something ugly: depression. But on Tuesday he released his new song Over, which the singer, songwriter and actor co-produced with Asad Ali Khan. The thirty-six-year-old performed it to urge Pakistanis to understand the seriousness of mental health and break the taboo of speaking and seeking help.

The trigger was Alamdar’s mother passing in 2014. “I never had the feeling of anxiety before that,” he told SAMAA Digital. “When I felt it become worse, I decided to take control. That’s when I took up meditation and yoga and began accepting what I was going through.”

All of this was happening while he was trying to build his career. He played the shaggy-haired Shobby in Dance Kahani in 2016 and followed that up with the role of Adil in Parwaaz Hai Junoon in 2018. When he started working on the song a year ago, he started it in B minor but worked with Asad to expand the chords to give it a darker progression. “I honestly prefer the raw [version],” he says. When he first played it for friends, they would ask, ‘Ye kis ka gana he,’ he says with a laugh. But perhaps one of the outcomes is that his friends now open up and talk to them about their mental health.

He speaks candidly about how he suffered from anxiety as well. But he connects his experience to a wider problem of the sheer number of other Pakistanis suffering. An estimated 16 percent of our population, i.e. more than 14 million people, struggle with mild to moderate psychiatric challenges. Experts put it down to myriad factors, including the military operations in tribal areas, sexual abuse, crime, lawlessness and a lack of access to justice.

Over’s message is for people to accept fears of mental health issues. ‘Tired of the ocean where I can’t speak. Tired of the feeling when I can’t weep’ are its opening lines which describe how difficult it is for many men to articulate how they feel in Pakistani society.

For Alamdar, toxic masculinity needs introspection. Men need to understand that they too suffer and it is alright to seek help. One of the manifestations we see is bullying by young men in school and at college, he adds. “I hope my new track generates more conversations and awareness about mental health.”

Over can be listened to here.

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Alamdar Khan, Over, Mental Health Awareness, Mental Wellness, Mental Health
 
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