By Jannat Behl:
Feeling low or sad is a natural human reaction to the difficult times and struggles one face during the course of life. The word ‘depression’ is often used to describe the above feelings. You often hear people complaining that they are depressed after a stressful day at work or if they don’t get the job they like or if they’ve had a small fight at home. What people don’t realise is that depression is not just being sad. One friend once described depression as a persistent lack of motivation to do anything, a state of extreme melancholy and emptiness without being able to really pinpoint the reason as to why one is feeling what he/she is feeling.
Mental health problems in India are often shoved under the carpet due to the very apparent stigma in our society. Somehow, over the years, having a mental health issue has become equivalent to losing your sanity and not being completely able. The result is that very few people to come forward to talk about their illness and even fewer people seek treatment.
According to WHO, India has the highest rate of depression with 36% of our population battling depression. The unfortunate part is that the majority of depression patients fall in the age bracket of 6 and 25. What is even worse is that due to the lack of proper mental healthcare facilities, depression is expected to become the second leading cause of death by 2020 across the world.
People tend to ignore or neglect the signs due to the stigma and only decide to consult a psychologist when it is too late. But, if caught early, depression can be treated. Therefore, instead of telling yourself, “Snap out of it” or “It’s a matter of time; you’ll grow out of it,” it is advisable to consult a mental health professional.
Among teenagers, depression has several indicators including low energy, concentration problems, loss of interest in activities, thoughts of self-harm, insomnia, anorexia, sudden outbursts and self-doubt. However, some teenagers may also experience a significant increase in appetite and oversleeping. Shockingly, most teenagers do not seek the necessary help and suffer alone. Hence, it has become important to create awareness and educate the youth on how to cope with depression and when to seek help.
The contributing factors to teenage depression may include unrealistic expectations, the lack of a proper support system and the popular “Log kya sochengey” (What will people think?) stigma in India. Whether it’s the absurd college cut off lists or the pressure of choosing a particular academic stream under family and societal pressure or the expectation to behave a certain way due to overpowering gender roles in our society or the inability of teenagers to cope with relationship problems, the list is endless.
It’s time to understand and support our loved ones in whatever they do. Because if we don’t reduce this unnecessary pressure on our youth today, the consequences in the future will be detrimental.
In my Class 12 board exams, I scored decently well to get the college of my choice, but I decided to go study Economics at the University of Warwick and then took up a job in consulting. However, after a year and a half, I decided to quit my job and work towards launching an online therapy portal – ‘BabbleMe’. A platform that matches users to the therapist they need and speak to them anonymously and confidentially without the stigma of being seen in the waiting room.
This choice is far from what I studied or had decided to pursue. The decisions I made may not have been traditional or easy. Therefore, it is okay to break stereotypes and take the unconventional route.
To conclude, I would like to tell each and every teenager, be yourself, don’t let society dictate who you are or what you want. If you feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.