WOW | WOW Issue

Depression Let’s talk about it

Depression is not a bad mood. It is a biological reality and a medical condition, and when we talk about it as anything less than that, we belittle the people suffering from it. “Look at a discussion on depression as you would at the Guthi movement,” says Dr Pradeep Pandey, Neuropsychiatrist, Alka Hospital. “A lot of people have had different orientations for many years. But only when prominent people came to the fore did it allow for the whole movement to come forward, and thus reach its legitimate conclusion: for people to be acknowledged, for their rights and privileges to be recognised, and for changes at the policy level.”

Pradeep says that celebrities started the movement that is now carried forward by heads of government, before gaining acceptance at the home level. “Celebrities who have become spokespeople for depression or any kind of mental illness have become role models for people in recovery,” he states.

Communication is the only way we’ll get to  a place of awareness, acceptance and action

Depression is a reality that can’t be ignored anymore. Call it a multi-layered beast or a disease that gnaws at every inch of positivity, it’s a danger that lurks everywhere. “Too often, people are quick to stigmatise depression and other mental illnesses as forms of moral weakness or lack of willpower. Nothing can be more further from the truth than this,” he says. Sharing a recent case, he says, “More responsibility at a young age, and later being looked down upon by his family triggered depression in a 24 year old man. During the counseling sessions, he revealed that his younger brother earns more than him which made him inferior at home. The earning factor and deteriorating respect hampered his self-esteem.”

Rekindling a discussion on suicide led by depression, he says, “In our country, often people do not mention the reason for suicide as depression or mental illness because that would be considered as a stigma. Isn’t it time to change the discourse?” Instead of providing solace, suicide is perceived as a dark patch on the family who prefer to hush up the issue. “Attempted suicide is an act of desperation, a cry for help. Unfortunately, even highly educated families consider it as a sign of weakness. But the truth is some people may be more vulnerable and can also have family histories of chronic depression” he shares.

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Suicide cases are on the rise in the country. People attempting suicide belong to all age groups. In the fiscal 2017-18, 2,854 males, 2,242 females and 240 children committed suicide. Likewise, 5,131 people committed suicide in the fiscal 2016/17, 4,705 in the fiscal 2015/16 and 3974 in the fiscal 2016/17. “The triggering point happens when there is a big gap between reality and desire,” he briefs.

According to the World Health Organisation, 800,000 people commit suicide in the world every year. Every three seconds, a person attempts suicide and every 40 seconds a person dies of suicide. 80% of people who committed suicide suffered from depression.

“Suicide rates have gone up with the increase in the number of people suffering from mental health issues. And depression is the leading cause of suicide,” he highlights.

Counselling plays a crucial role here. “Each individual has their own set of resilience. We have to learn and build on it,” he emphasises. He says that most young minds are vulnerable to failures, be it in professional or personal life. “On many occasions, failed relationships trigger depression. Also, individuals who have suicidal intent are neurologically predisposed. Seeking help from friends may not be an ideal solution as many can be judgmental. The role of counsellors becomes pertinent in such cases,” he adds.

The concept of tele-counselling is taking off slowly in the country. After a stressful day at work or a failed relationship with a classmate, what one needs the most is a place to vent out one’s feelings without revealing one’s identity. “Anonymity helps in confiding your deepest worries to someone who doesn’t know you,” he states.

Says 20 year old Aisha Devkota (name changed): “Sharing one’s emotional issues to a faceless friend helps me flush out the negativity from my mind.”

People in the age group of 18-25 years visit counsellors and counselling sites mostly for breakup-related issues and failure in academics. The ones in 25-40 years age group seek online help for job-related issues like office politics, excessive work pressure and marital discord.