Let us talk about depression – the word or the term we throw around and use nonchalantly these days especially when someone commits suicide. It’s like we always wait for someone somewhere to commit suicide to suddenly talk about depression and mental health.
A month ago, Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide suddenly created a buzz everywhere about people being sensitive and vocal about mental health issues by posting comments, quotes, thoughts and statements about depression and other disorders.
A month later, it has fizzled into the unknown again.
Why do we always wait for either a suicide or 10th of October (World Mental Health Day) to discuss such a serious public health issue when it is so prevalent with 1 in 5 people in India are suffering from it? Depression is as real, painful and debilitating as any physical illness.
We wouldn’t leave our physical illnesses like diabetes or heart disease untreated, right? We rush to hospitals and clinics to treat them, take medications, alter our lifestyles to control and manage them. There are hundreds of home remedies people openly share and discuss to treat such illnesses but the moment we replace the term ‘physical’ with ‘mental’ our attitude towards the illness shifts dramatically and the taboo is so much so that we often choose to ignore it, hide it or ridicule the ones who share about it as something that’s just in their head because it’s just not as serious or important as a physical illness.
If your arm is broken, you are asked to get a cast but if you are mentally and emotionally broken, you are an outcast.
Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide in India, which has become the second leading cause of death amongst the young Indians according to a study published in the medical journal ‘The Lancet’.
Our state has a history of a prolonged battle with suicide, with Sikkim having one of the highest suicide rates in the country. An article published on 27th January 2019 by a leading national digital news platform ‘The Print’ has stated “….that despite Sikkim being referred as the golden state with high Literacy and Cleanliness rate yet, it has a sordid underbelly which is manifesting itself in suicides and the questionable mental health condition of its residents….”
Suicide happens when pain exceeds the ability to cope. People just don’t kill themselves, their illness does; their depression kills and depression is as uninvited as cancer or the coronavirus itself.
People usually associate depression to be anything from a bad day to being sad or an overwhelming inability to live life but as much as anyone with depression knows, it is much more than that.
Depression is insidious: it creeps and builds over time. It is when everything feels too hard, right from getting out of the bed in the morning to falling asleep at night. Unnoticeable changes lead to bigger changes and suddenly, there is a dark cloud above your head, following you wherever you go.
Depression is a state where you feel so low that nothing, almost nothing, makes you feel good. You start losing interest in the things that once gave you joy. You start wondering how you ever enjoyed anything at all and what do other people have that you can’t get a hold of. The effort to do even the smallest task is so colossal and the pressure to keep a happy facade especially when you are considered and referred as someone strong is as painful as probably getting a punch on your chest.
As easy as it is for the people to say “you should talk to someone, share about your feelings”, how do we even put words on something we don’t understand ourselves? Depression is like being colourblind and being constantly told how colourful the world is.
Hope seems unreal to the depressed because they are trapped in the web of hopelessness, confusion, fatigue, irritability, feeling low, self-doubt and low self-esteem. It is difficult to picture a rainbow when you are surrounded by dark stormy clouds but we surely can lift those clouds with the right help and right treatment given at the right time – but more than the clinical treatment it is the right support, empathy, respect, non-judgmental attitude, patience, love and compassion that is instrumental in helping someone conquer depression.
We need to normalize and legitimize the issues of anxiety, depression, depressive psychosis and other mental disorders by talking and discussing it time and again just as we discuss diabetes or hypertension. It is extremely important to stress on the fact that it can happen to anyone whether you are strong, sensitive or highly intelligent and it is not a personal failure or a sign of weakness.
Many of the most creative, insightful and powerful personalities of our society have battled depression and other mental disorders and to name a few are; Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Issac Newton, Vincent Van Gogh, Beethoven, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, J.K Rowling, Deepika Padukone and the list just goes on and on. Marcel Proust, a French novelist who suffered depression as well had said: “Happiness is good for the body, but it is grief which develops the strength of the mind”.
I have been able to say all of these out of my personal experience since I have been battling with Clinical Moderate Depression for the past few months and am under treatment.
I have been struggling but I am also in the process of recovery and healing at the same time. Healing for me began when I first confided about my state with my family, which otherwise I had kept hidden. Talking about it openly felt like lifting much baggage off my shoulder.
I had been in denial for a long period. Although I knew that something wasn’t right, I wasn’t okay. The fear that I would disappoint everyone including myself, I kept running away from reality until things got worse. I had reached a stage where my spirit had stifled, I could no longer talk, smile, eat, go out or face people.
The only wish I had every day was to disappear or just hide away from everyone. I have always advocated about mental and emotional well-being, encouraged people to talk about their mental health issues and seek help, never had I imagined I would be one of them and It was then I realized how difficult it is to be on the other side of the fence.
I was well aware of the mental health issues, its symptoms, consequences, the treatment and the resources available yet I had a tough time accepting, seeking professional help and sharing it with my family, it was heartbreaking for me to imagine the excruciating struggle many go through living with their illness without any support and help.
Many live in oblivion with their conditions remaining undiagnosed with people coming to know until they commit suicide or turn homicide. The skewed perspective our society has constructed for mental illness with labels used even by the educated such as mad, crazy, psycho, weirdo is the first misconception we need to debunk.
It might be an uphill battle to come out and talk about your mental illness but the first step towards defeating your battle is to open up and seek help.
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness and even if it is, so what? We are human and we are allowed to be weak. I found a new kind of strength in my weakness, felt liberated in not having to pretend to be okay.
The unconditional support, love, care understanding and patience that I have been receiving from my family and friends have ameliorated my healing process and today I am not just surviving but striving too, to become better and healthier both mentally and physically.
Hence I feel it is my responsibility to reach out to those who have been hiding their depression in their closets and under the rugs. You are not alone so come out and talk about it, seek help, recover and bounce back as someone much stronger and resilient.
Some of you could become ambassadors to educate and advocate about mental health through your testimonies and success stories because we need such stories to be told. It is our collective responsibility to create a healthy and safe space for people to talk about their problems, their conditions without the fear of being judged.
We need to galvanize as many voices as possible so that together we are not just able to raise but amplify our voices it create awareness about mental health, build the support system, end the stigma, save lives and create opportunities for every single person to thrive and grow to their full potential.
The author is Roshnila Gurung, District Child Protection Officer, South Sikkim, ICPS SJE&WD,Govt of Sikkim. She is also a KIP International UN Millennium Fellow,Rome,Italy. She post graduated in Social Work (Family & Child Welfare), Pune University. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
NB: Views/Opinions expressed in the article or write up is purely of the author or writer. For any queries or contradictions, the author can be contacted in his/her email id.
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