I have been reading so many tributes to Bourdain and Spade, in light of their recent deaths by suicide.
Suddenly, my timeline is filled with posts and thoughts on mental health awareness. There are people constantly sending out love and advice to anyone who would care to read, to anyone in a dark place. In the time of news like the tragedy of an influential figure ending her life, the virtual world seems to come together as a community. It is indeed pitiful that it takes a tragedy for us to display emotions and advocate thoughts, that seemingly are more natural to the word ‘human’.
I believe each one of us has a dark space in our hearts. Its almost like the black hole in the universe–only, the size and the force with which this black hole on the inside can suck out our soul differs for different people.
One thing that all this highlights to me is the fact that despite reading so much and learning so much about mental health, even those privileged enough to have access to all this continue to be, if not apathetic, ignorant (and indifferent) to people around us. There seems to be a continuing gap between the abundance of information on mental health and the day-to-day application of it. People with the privilege of access to information continue to struggle with depression, and the shame and stigma attached to it; leave aside those without the privilege to access information or even take online counselling.
We may care, of course, for most people around us. But only to a point that it is comforting, only to a point that it gives us the satisfaction that we have helped someone. If we don’t get the instant gratification of pulling someone out of sadness or gloom, we give up, pulling the plug of our empathy.
It isn’t that we tend to be tardy and heartless. But, I believe that this gap probably stems from the inability to apply textbook (or internet) knowledge to understand, in case of suffering friends and family, just when does general sadness turn into depression. Have we been able to identify it easily – more so, accept it? Probably not. Because depression continues to be seen as the typical black and white image of someone sitting with their face in their hands in a dark space, in deep anguish; forgetting or perhaps, denying the existence of high-functioning depression.
Depression can be present in someone who seems to be living it up. One can be fulfilling all their worldly ‘tasks’–doing their jobs, eating, going out, laughing with friends–while being painfully depressed. Oft repeated but, depression is not a matter of terrible and terrifying shame, to force one to deny being depressed. Nor is it the likes of a casual headache, for anyone to call themselves depressed for momentary sadness or displeasure.
Many loved ones of people who end their lives by suicide continue to grab at their memories saying that things seemed okay, she seemed okay, if there was any darkness, it was sudden or she didn’t share.
The point is that a suicidal tendency stems from an innate sense of fatigue and tiredness rooted in hopelessness. This hopelessness is usually in one’s ability to ever get out of the cycle of darkness that one’s mind can spin.
A suicidal tendency in someone will not carry a tag, informing others of the state. The only way to prevent it is to teach oneself to be alert on a daily basis, to be aware of those around us every day.
If someone has been struggling mentally for a long time, you can help them by giving yourself to them on an emotional level, letting them know that you are there. They probably have become tired of fighting but, your pinning value in their struggle and your belief in their victory over their hopelessness will give them courage and reason to persevere, to not give up. Give them that and you won’t be wondering what went wrong.
Note: The featured image is credited to the author herself and this post has first been published on her personal blog.