Taboo of being Depressed

Er.Tahzeeb Z. Jawaid
Depression is a reality. Let’s not neglect it. Let’s not underestimate it. Let’s not laugh at it. Let’s not shove it under the carpet. Let’s not turn it into a taboo. And most importantly let’s not exploit it for attention.
Two years ago a friend narrated a story sobbing that she wanted to visit a psychiatrist/psychologist and had asked someone to accompany her. The reply she received was that she should never mention it again. A few days later she was not friends with the person after receiving the message and I quote “I can’t be friends with a mad person”. This was my first second hand experience with unawareness and taboo that is associated with mental health.
Anyways she did go to the doctor. But before that, she had to go through the agony of spending her hard earned money and then the rudeness of the woman arranging the patients and their appointments. Finally she made her way into the cabin and talked her heart out .Though after that neither the doctor nor she felt the need for a repeat visit. This episode of her life helped me realise the multiple jeopardy faced by those who actually need help-its a taboo, treatment is expensive and not even the doctors clinic shows any sympathy.
According to the WHO, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some points in their lives and around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions. Globally 4.3% of the world population suffers from Depression (WHO 2015).While in our country, nearly 15% of Indian Adults need active intervention for one or more mental health issues (National Mental Health survey-2015-16). One in every twenty Indians suffer from Depression. Hence the burden of Depression is too huge to be neglected!
The WHO defines depression as an ILLNESS characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for atleast two weeks. Also there is loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feeling of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness; and thoughts of self harm or even committing suicide.
So that’s basically almost everything that makes a person into an independent being. This definition in itself tells us that Depression can’t be underestimated. It affects the idea of a “normal life”. It creates a world of negative reinforcements inside the mind of a person.
A person suffering with depression may seem healthy to others. But a close medical examination might reveal the effects it has- A fall in the levels of few hormones to slow deterioration of the normal functioning of the body.
Behaviour of people suffering from this may vary from hyperactivity, social interactions and explicit happiness to completely shutting out the world around them. This seems like the most difficult part of the illness because the happy faces can easily fool others while those shutting people out are mostly perceived as snobs or antisocial and finally forgotten. Both the extremes (and those somewhere in between) are susceptible to the worst effect of the illness i.e the idea of self harm.
All this becomes more severe today because the lifestyle of people is characterised by features like -living alone or spending too much time in separate rooms even if you live with your family, excessive indulgence in the virtual world of social networking sites, idea of hardwork being justified by less sleep and cut off from social relation, heart breaks, relentless competition, materialism, consumerism, quick success strategies and an intensified struggle for existence.
Today 800 000 people die due to suicide around the world every year (source: WHO). This number is too huge and the worst part is that the 15-29 year olds are most susceptible to it. Therefore, as a society we need to act fast to recreate the Social construct. Our value system needs an overhaul. For this we need to bring changes-behavioural and psychological changes. The patient, family and friends, all have a role to play. While, as a society we need to accept the existence of this illness before doing anything else. The taboo built around the issue of mental issues has to be broken down first and then we need to make changes in the thinking.
The society needs to understand that every one gets to live his own life. One can only learn from the others, not become the other person. So we need to learn to respect our diversity and like our life and teach the same to the younger generation. The content we watch on social media and the sense of competition and greed for more has to be curbed. A line has to be drawn between what is real and what is not.
Also we need to learn the art of patience. No doubt success is the inevitable desire of all humans but it can’t come easy. So we need to give it its time. It is more important to do things correctly rather than quickly. If we change our idea of success from “ME ONLY” to “ME and OTHERS TOO” ,we can bring about a revolution in the model of development.
We need to build a supportive, ethical and empathetic environment because as humans our current situations can change for the better or worse at any time. And if we generate a “Safe Zone” for people around us ,it will provide a sense of security and reduce the fear of failure.
Familial and social bonds have to be strengthened. We need to redevelop the process of communication between people on a one-on-one basis and things like family discussion because man is a social being and interactions act as antidote to any negativity in the mind. Parents should understand the changes in the social norms and talk more freely to children to solve the new problems of the new age.
Also we need to remember that since now the illness is being discussed by people on larger platforms ,so we must be very cautious and not trivialize the discussion by using the term casually. We need to remember the people suffering from it, (be it at any stage Mild, Moderate, Severe) need help to go ahead with life. It is a struggle for them to get out of the bed in the morning. Hence, the severity of the illness should not be forgotten at anytime.
Life is a gift given to many different creatures but, social life where in one can share and care for each other is restricted to one specie. Let us use this faculty to fight the grave illness of depression and its effects. Let every human become free because a mind that is depressed is no better than the caged bird which Maya Angeloue compared to a free one in the poem-THE CAGED BIRD:
The free bird leaps on the back of the wind
#But a bird that stalks down the narrow cage And flows downstream till the current ends
#Can seldom see through his bars of rage And dips his wings in the orange sun rays
#His wings are clipped and his feet are tied And dares to claim the sky
So he opens his throat to sing….
(The author is an alumnus of S.M.V.D.U,Kakryal, Katra and runs a Trust for the welfare of the downtrodden and weaker sections of Society)