Mental Health//

Deepak Chopra Speaks Out for Suicide Prevention

The spiritual leader and alternative medicine expert launches a global movement to encourage and empower young adults to reach out when they’re struggling with their mental health.

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Getty Images

Welcome to Thriving Mind, a resource to help you understand your individual signs of stress, take small steps to recharge, and unlock better mental health.

Deepak Chopra is a renowned doctor and alternative medicine expert with nearly 90 books under his belt.  When asked about what stresses him out, his response is: “At this stage in my life, nothing makes me frazzled.” He attributes that feeling to over 50 years practicing mindfulness and meditation

However, Chopra hasn’t always felt that pervasive sense of calm. “My stressful days were in my early medical career as a resident, not getting enough sleep, trying to combat stress by smoking and through alcohol,” he tells Thrive. “Then, on an impulse, I decided to stop everything because I was very busy as a doctor taking care of patients, and I wanted them to feel better, but I couldn’t give them any advice because of my own situation.” He decided to take the advice he was giving to patients and practice it on himself: “I started getting good sleep, cultivating healthy emotions like compassion, joy, kindness, and peace, changed my diet to a more plant-based and diverse diet, got good sleep, exercised, and started yoga. I basically reinvented my body by resurrecting myself.”

And new research shows that like Chopra, most of us are pretty bad at recognizing our personal signs of overstress. A new Thrive Global survey of over 2,000 Americans ages 18 to 85 shows just how desperately people want and need that knowledge: 91% of respondents said not knowing or ignoring their personal signs of overstress had a negative impact on their mental well-being, 72% wish they knew more small everyday steps to improve their mental health, and nearly half said when it comes to managing their stress, they don’t know where to start.

Chopra wants to do his part to help those who are also struggling with stress, burnout, anxiety, and other mental health issues. “Suicide is the second most common cause of death, among those aged 10-34. Suicide is the biggest taboo of America,” he says. “This is the biggest tragedy of humankind. If we don’t address it, it is a testimony to our collective insanity. Let’s change the world — we can do it!’’

Together with social entrepreneur Poonacha Machaiah, actress and humanitarian Gabriella Wright, and director Michel Pascal, Chopra has started the “Never Alone” global campaign and movement, which aims to build communities to encourage and empower young adults to reach out to a friend who may be struggling with their mental health. 

“We are creating a global campaign for suicide prevention and improving mental well-being by supporting each other in times of anxiety and depression — paying attention, being affectionate and kind to each other, being caring to each other, noticing each other’s strengths, and encouraging the unfoldment of them,” Chopra explains. “The goal of the movement is to reduce the stigma, allow people to know they are not alone, build communities of well-being where people can speak about it, and enable them with the tools to work through it. Our campaign is built on very simple principles: caring, creating a worldwide community of spiritual practice, which is called sangha, and deep caring, reflection, and helping each other.”

Chopra recommends key ways that we can be more aware of those suffering around us, and suggests some signs we can look out for. “When co-workers, friends, or people in your family are struggling, you can easily become aware of that. They lack sleep, they appear anxious, depressed, and sometimes they even give hints of hurting themselves,” he says. “We can actually tackle this epidemic by remembering four A’s, which are, in my view, the pillars of relationship: attention with deep listening, affection with deep caring, appreciation with deep acknowledgement of the uniqueness of each other, and acceptance where you’re not trying to change anybody.”

Chopra says the most important principle to remember is that, whether or not you are struggling with your mental well-being, you are never alone. There are so many people dealing with similar experiences. “People are afraid, sometimes, of being vulnerable,” he explains. “That’s why we created this campaign, where people actually say to each other, ‘I’m never alone.’ That’s a fact.” He also notes that there’s a strong benefit to sharing your experience with others. “If you share your vulnerability with others, then others will also do the same. That’s what creates a great sangha of empathy. Empathy simply means feeling what other people feel. Empathy automatically leads to compassion, which is the desire to alleviate suffering. Compassion leads to love in action. That is what ultimately heals, because love without action is irrelevant, and action without love is meaningless. But love in action accomplishes miracles, including all healing.” 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

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