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Anam Tanoli’s suicide has a lot to say about cyber-harassment, mental health awareness and the relationship between success and happiness

Her death may have created a wave for mental health awareness in Pakistan, but it was a death she didn’t deserve.

A lot of you may be wondering about the large gap between my last article and this one, right? The reason has been a rollercoaster of mental health struggles that had severely affected my routine and motivation to work.

The reason for penning an article on this particular topic as my “comeback” is also mental health. Nearly a week ago, I woke up with anxiety for the second time in a row; I couldn’t breathe normally, and it felt like an out-of-body experience (a common symptom known as detachment or depersonalisation) with my mind turning into a broken record once again while telling me how I will never achieve my goals, I will never succeed in life, and how I will never be good enough.

Two hours later, while still recovering from the ‘aftershocks’ of this attack, I randomly remembered seeing some tributes being paid on certain instagram stories for a Pakistani-Italian model named Anam Tanoli passing away the night before. I didn’t know her too well, only seeing her pictures on certain brand posts around Instagram and Facebook, and I assumed the worst to be a car accident. Until curiosity got the best of me and I decided to google it.

As it turned out, Anam Tanoli had committed suicide by hanging herself. She had been battling severe depression (she had booked an appointment with a therapist the next day), and had recently become the prime target for online hate and cyber harassment. She was only 26 years old.

So here I am, typing out a piece on a model I did not know about, but whose death has brought me to try and remind the readers of certain thing we tend to keep forgetting.

A friend of mine, in all good intent, mentioned how she didn’t think Anam would be suffering this way because she was so pretty and successful. Oftentimes we equate worldly wealth and good fortune to emotional and spiritual well-being; they’ve got it good, why should they be sad?

Why would successful people like Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Kate Spade and Kim Jonghyun be suffering so badly they would take their own lives?

That’s the brutal reality behind mental health issues: money, fame, and looks may show a certain degree of power in the physical world, but not necessarily for the one in your mind. Particularly, for the demons living there.

Which brings me to the next thing: Over 300,000 people are at risk of taking their own lives in Pakistan. The country ranks 22nd among 25 countries in which a survey was conducted on rates of cyber bullying, and that rate is known to be increasing as of late. 

Our words can either be used as weapons or a food banquet for those aforementioned demons. The fact that some people choose to sit behind a screen and type out cruel words for others with no regard of the consequences is baffling; what kind of sick joy do these people get from trying to tear others down?

And whatever a woman does seems to be an open invitation for just that. The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) in Pakistan stated last year, that out of 535 calls made to them during their first four months of being operative, 62% of those calls were made by women.

Mental health awareness may be increasing in countries like Pakistan, but unlike that of negativity such as cyberbullying, it’s pace is drastically slow. A lot of people have no material or mental means to seek the help they need; money, qualified professionals, stigma and stereotyping have all become hinderances to what is just as important as a physical check up.

After Anam’s death, I saw depression and mental health being discussed as a serious concern among us all and not as a taboo or lack of religious faith. Many celebrities have shared their own struggles with mental health voiced concerns over jokes being made on the  victims. Pakistan’s recently elected president Dr. Arif Alvi took to twitter three days ago, proposing mental health helplines to be readily available 24/7.

Anam Tanoli’s death may have created a wave for mental health awareness in Pakistan, but it was a death she didn’t deserve. We, at The Tempest, send our deepest condolences to her family. We would also like to encourage our readers to not be afraid to seek the help they need, or to reach out to those who do. Spread love and kindness to others and save some for yourself, because you are just as deserving of it as anyone else.

For Pakistanis: two counselling and suicide prevention helplines that I am aware of that you can use and refer are the Aman Foundation’s Telehealth helpline (+92 (21) 111-11-9123) and Rozan’s Counselling Services Helpline (0800-22444, 051-2890505-6).

If you are being cyberbullied or know someone who is, contact the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) for help. If you know of any other mental health helplines, anywhere in the world, do mention them in the comments or replies as you never know who might need them.