Depression Is A Serious Mental Illness Made Worse By Society’s Expectations

Posted by Anjana Nair in Mental Health
November 28, 2017

We talk about a lot of things daily. We talk about everything under the sun. We talk about having  a fever, a cough, a cold or even a broken leg. But how many of us talk about broken minds?

Everyone wants to stay healthy. When I say healthy, I mean it in all the ways. Yes, mental health is also included in the ‘healthy’ category. When I say this, I can imagine a lot of people saying “Is it really that important?” But let me tell you, if a ‘regular’ illness can end a life, do you know what mental illness does? It does the same. There’s a slight difference though. People often end up taking their own lives by committing suicide.

Yes, suicide – the scary word. It is an important word – maybe more important than you think. Suicide is one of the leading causes of deaths in the world. Every 5 minutes, one person in India attempts suicide. If we look into the ‘why’ aspect, we find that many things might have affected them. If  I were to categorise these problems, I’d say they were related to one’s ‘mental health’. It may not be a mental illness necessarily. At some point, their mental health problems were not dealt with. But sometimes, we too contribute to their silence. How? By being insensitive and belittling others’ problems. The lack of awareness about these issues wreak havoc on people’s lives.

We don’t mind talking about a fever. Even our families don’t mind. But when one is affected with a mental illness, the scenario is different. The whole world around us goes silent. It’s like a taboo. The social stigma attached to mental illness has had a horrible impact on people who suffer from mental illnesses. They face social isolation and people look at them as if they were a zombie.

Medicines become another issue, with people often dismissing them or making ignorant remarks like the medicines being ‘slow poison’.

Nobody who has never had a mental illness will know what it feels like to be living with one. Imagine someone telling you constantly, “You are horrible, you are useless, you look disgusting.” You would want to kill that person. What happens when you can’t see that person? What happens when it’s your own head talking to you? When it talks to you all the time, so you can’t even go to sleep or concentrate – what can you do? That’s when people decide to take their own lives, so that these voices can stop talking to them.

Even though the causes of these illnesses are not clearly specified, the way they are treated in real life plays a huge role. Among all of the illnesses, the most underrated is depression. Why? Because it has become so common. “Today is such a bad day, I am so depressed.” This has become our language.

Depression is a mental illness, that needs serious attention, help and care. It is not categorised by necessarily feeling sad, but sometimes, or most of the times, it’s the inability to feel any emotion – even sadness. It’s a constant feeling of drowning, of emptiness and hollowness.

So, don’t tell a person diagnosed with depression that even you were depressed yesterday and good food cured it. It’s not something a box of chocolates, or a big mug of coffee can cure. Your brain is what’s not working properly and we need medicines to fix that. Antidepressants can save lives.

Don’t add to anyone’s depression by making them feel guilty about it, or by saying happiness is a choice. Yes. It is choice, but not when you are depressed. Sometimes nothing works, even the tablets. Nobody puts themselves there, nobody does it on purpose. It’s an illness that comes to you like any others.

Depression also has friends like anxiety, which can worsen the situation. Whereas depression tells you to not care and not feel anything, anxiety tells you to care and feel for things that don’t even exist. Society needs to stop creating expectations of how a person should function. This includes friends and family. These expectations tells those suffering from mental illnesses to isolate themselves more from people. This is very common and can lead to suicide if left untreated. That is why it is important to seek help.

How can I empathise so well with those suffering from depression? Let me tell you a secret – I suffer from depression myself. Psychology students can suffer from depression too? Yes, any human being with a normal body can suffer from depression. We are allowed to feel emotions and we don’t have godly powers. So stop saying things like these or making such assumptions.

If you know anyone with any kind of mental issues, be there for them. Listen. Empathise, and not sympathise. Understand that no problem is less serious. You can’t cure anyone’s illness, but you can save lives for sure.

I am doing this just to create awareness and bring into light the seriousness of the issue. I am not labeling anyone.