Sheetal Mulani Image Credit: Sharmila Dhal

Dubai: Mohit’s life was painted with glorious colours but was washed away in the acid rain even before it truly began to flourish. This is a gentle abiding message to hundreds of thousands of parents around the world who do not know what is ticking in their children’s minds and can never even begin to fathom where the phantoms lie.

Mohit was alive till August 26, 2016. He was 21, endearing and revered by everyone around him. He was studying pre-med and economics abroad. He was in Dubai for a short break.

Shock and disbelief

On that fateful day, I was going to drop off my husband at the bank and run a few errands in the market after breakfast, when Mohit came out of his room and asked me to get him some kale for a smoothie. I was back within half an hour and as I emerged from the elevator to go my eighth floor apartment, a boy came running up to me to inform me that my neighbour’s son had fallen off the eighth floor apartment. I reached my apartment and called Mohit, but there was no response. I presumed he had gone down to the supermarket to buy something, which he often did. Then I opened my balcony door to look for my neighbour’s son. To my utter shock and disbelief, it was Mohit lying down on the first floor balcony as if he was sleeping.

 This is a message for parents who do not know what is ticking in their children's minds and can never even begin to fathom where the phantoms lie.”

 - Sheetal Mulani | Mother of Mohit

I couldn’t believe my eyes. There wasn’t a drop of blood. As much as I tried to summon the courage in the face of this adversity, I was dazed and everything around me was blurred as I was overcome with a sense of helplessness, grief and rage. The invasion of privacy that tragedy brings, especially when it is accompanied by the stigma of someone taking their own life, only heightens the unbearable agony. You become a public spectacle and everyone peeps and stares at you as if you are an exhibit at Madame Tussauds.

Not only had we lost our treasured son, my husband and I had to rise above the silent, yet enormously loud, indictment of friends, neighbours and relatives. Everyone saw what their eye showed them – that my son did it. But my gut feeling said there was more to it than meets the eye.

Exceptional student

Within a fortnight, I flew out of Dubai to visit Mohit’s college. The dean told me he was an exceptional student. When he checked for his last results on the computer, he nearly jumped out of his seat: three As. “Nobody could deny him a seat in medical school,” he told me.

I froze at the irony of his words. My son had mentioned how “everyone is saying I won’t make it.” He was seeing a psychiatrist and was on medication for ADHD and anxiety – “It’s very common Mom,” Mohit had shrugged it off.

I had no details as the laws in that country prohibit the divulgence of any confidential information about a student, let alone a patient. No exceptions are made, not even to parents who are responsible for their upbringing and fees.

I was simply aghast. Was Mohit responsible to take the medications? Was he even aware of their side effects?

I found a diary maintained by Mohit and I chanced upon a disturbing entry. “Why am I becoming slow?” he had written. Why had he, especially since he was so focused and had a photographic memory?

The more I probed into the matter, the more horrific were the results. The drugs Mohit was taking were mind-altering. They could induce a sense of numbness and trigger suicidal thoughts. Why was Mohit given such medication when all he probably needed was counselling, talk and group therapy, exercise and lifestyle changes?

The UAE has stringent laws against the use of such anti-psychotic drugs. But in some other countries, a whole generation of young men and women is being fed a quick fix of such drugs to combat anxiety and stress. It has become fashionable almost and youngsters fall back on anti-depressants so easily.

As parents, we need to stay alert. When we see changes in our children’s behaviour, let’s not just say they’re adapting to change or that it’s part of growing up. If your child feels too cold, too warm, has mood swings or is withdrawn, don’t ignore it. If he or she puts on or loses too much weight, don’t blame the diet. Your child could well be on a drug regimen to overcome anything from peer pressure to fear of failure. Please, please take this seriously.”