Depression. The D word. Chances are, some of those who read this would have personal experience with this disorder. Because that’s what it is. A disorder, an illness, a mental health issue, call it whatever you like, as long as it allows us to talk about depression. Please stop calling it “moodiness” or “sadness” or simply sweeping it under the rug. It is because of this stigma associated with mental health problems that so many of those affected cannot even talk about depression.
As per the World Health Organisation, depression is the top 13th cause of ill health for people across the globe. More than 320 million people in the world suffer from depression, which is nearly 5% of the world’s population. A very large part of this number comes from developing nations and emerging economies like India and China. It is more common among women than men. Let’s look at a few more numbers so that this sinks in really well:
The number of people affected by depression in India: 56.7 Million
The number of people affected by depression in the US: 17.5 Million
The number of people impacted by depression the world over: 322 Million
Suicide as a cause of death: 1.5% of all deaths worldwide
The number of people who died due to suicide in 2015 (WHO data): 788,000
Would you still say it’s not worth talking about?
Depression and other mental health disorders can affect anybody. While people of all ages and sections of society can be affected, certain circumstances can increase the risk. For instance, life events such as a major illness, the death of a loved one, the break-up of a relationship, loss of a job etc. Similarly other circumstances like financial problems, alcohol or drug dependency, ageing and loneliness, are all situations that can lead to depression. Most people, if they are not in denial, will suffer in silence because in many societies like India, we still do not talk about depression openly. Which is what needs to change.
If you have a friend or a family member that you know is dealing with depression, what do you do? You talk to them, and you encourage them to talk to you. You listen, without judgement, and without telling them to “snap out of it”. If they are not ready to talk about depression directly, then you don’t force them. Instead, talk of pleasant things and happy memories. If they go into their shell for too long, try to draw them out gently. Small things like coffee dates and shopping trips will help. If you ask them how they are, expect the standard “I’m good” response. That’s how most people deal with it. Which is okay. You’ll be doing your bit by just showing up and giving them company. Depression is complicated and the person dealing with it has to eventually handle it their way – but having a few caring friends makes all the difference.
To you who are reading this. If you are struggling with depression right now, then trust me on this – you are not alone. I’m right there along with you, and so are a countless number of others who just have not found the courage to talk about depression yet. Please, please share your troubles with someone you have faith in – a friend, a family member. I say this from personal experience – nobody can live your life for you, but being able to talk about it does make the burden a little lighter.
Let’s talk about depression. Openly, like we talk about weight loss and back pain and all our other troubles. Let’s remove this stigma that still remains attached to all mental health issues despite all the education and awareness in the world. It just might save a few lives.
Please share this post somewhere, and start a few conversations, because #MentalHealthMatters!