We live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast, but if you tell them you’re depressed, they’ll run in the opposite direction. Mental Illnesses, more often than not are considered as a failing on an individual’s part, labeling them as weak minded and impressionable. In our society, things poorly understood often end up becoming a stigma.
The world sees stuff as black and white, they simply cannot fathom grey areas; right or wrong, fit or unfit, sane or insane. Currently 1 in every 4 women and 1 in every 10 men in India is struggling with one or the other form of mental illness, primary ones being stress, anxiety and depression. Scared of being sidelined, labeled a liability, called “mental”, people who are suffering shut down, often making the initial problem worse. Nearly two thirds of people suffering from these issues feel isolated, worthless, ashamed, not able to reach out to anyone for help, thus developing suicidal tendencies; one tenth out of those make an attempt.
Everyone’s experience with mental illness is different. I am writing this article based off of what I have seen and my personal experience with it. I am focusing on depression because in the past decade it has become one of the leading causes of death across the world and because it is too little understood. The media portrayal of mental health doesn’t help at all. Another reason and one that stems from the first somewhat, is that most people have no point of reference as to what it’s like to live with depression. They simply can’t comprehend it. To them, it’s all made up, and that people are just trying to get attention or being lazy. They are asked to simply “snap out of it” or “how long are you going to be sad for?”. Depression is not sadness, it’s not an emotion but an illness and needs to be treated as such. It is not simply the result of a ‘chemical imbalance’, that figure of speech doesn’t even begin to capture how complex the disease actually is. To state, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, certain medications, and medical problems are just a few reasons. Several of them could be working in tandem as well to bring on depression.
Everyone is unique, hence things affect them differently. A break-up, death of a loved one, losing a friend, losing a job, these are all stressful life events and people react to them incongruously. Some people are lucky enough to be able to handle it well, others might not be. The least we can do is sympathize and be there for them. Depression can go on for months. There might be good days and there can be very bad days. You can be having a laugh one day and might not feel like getting out of the bed on the next. You lose interest in what used to be your favorite activities. You can’t concentrate, lose sleep, don’t feel like working, become snappy. Your appetite is affected and nothing seems to get you out of the blue.
Depression is so much more prevalent than it was in the generations before us, and why not? We are so much more susceptible to it. Everything around us is designed to make us unhappy, we go on social media and compare ourselves to people we don’t even care about. We look at advertisements that make us feel inadequate somehow and we buy things we don’t even need. We are ladened with choices and while we think that is a good thing, sometimes it just brings uncertainty and indecisiveness. We are insecure lonely control freaks. We seek external validation from pretentious friends. We assume we can be truly happy only when ALL of our dreams have come true. I agree, having lofty goals is great, but when we tie our happiness to future successes that may or may not happen, we will never find joy in the life we live today. Oh boy, with this list no wonder we have an epidemic on our hands.
But fret not, it does get better, with persistence from you and people who care about you. It’s time we change our mindsets and stop treating depression like a taboo. My mental health does not define me as a human, nor does it define you – it’s simply a part of the boundless beings that we are, and it’s a part that can get better with time and the right attention. Reaching out is courageous, its the first step towards getting better. Talk to someone you trust, if not then there are professional therapists, confidential corporate wellness services, round the clock professional helplines (one listed below). Once you’ve taken this small step forward, albeit slowly, remember that this time will pass; even the darkest hour only has sixty minutes.
It’s very easy to go on with our lives, but it doesn’t take a lot to observe and notice if someone needs help, the signs are all there. If you feel you are at that end of the spectrum and can help people in need, you can volunteer (link below). Lend a sympathetic ear, show compassion, you might unknowingly save a life.
Helpline: +91-22-27546669 (http://www.aasra.info/)
Link #1: http://www.aasra.info/joinus.html