Mental Illness, Depression & Other Things No One Is Talking About
Depression is a legitimate medical condition in dire need of discussion in contemporary Indian society.
If I was to describe depression I would describe it as something that lurks in the deepest recesses of your mind, forever present, forever watching.
It is there when you’re driving, buying groceries, interacting with friends and simply going about your daily business. And when the moment is right and dark enough for this little demon living within your head, it comes forth and takes over. Suddenly, none of it really matters – not your job or your education or even those who truly love and care for you.
Dr Gaurav Deka, a Delhi based doctor, clinical psychotherapist and a transpersonal regression therapist, describes it in the following manner:
Depression, like any other physical ailment, is an illness. Though it may not always be biological or because of an imbalance in your levels of serotonin/dopamine/norepinephrine, it can definitely be a product of learned behaviour, unprocessed grief mostly out of a trauma, ineffective behavioral choices or other social factors. Though unpleasant experiences are a normal part of human evolution, depression may feel like a situation where one is unable to pull himself/herself out of that reality. One feels stuck and the situation feels absolutely endless.
High Rate of Depression in India
According to World Health Organisation data in 2016, India is one of the three countries, along with China and the USA, with the highest rate of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Mental illness is perhaps the only form of a medical condition which affects such a vast part of the population, yet requires constant, vigilant effort to raise awareness. And why is that? Because hardly anyone is ever talking about it.
Those suffering from mental disorders are, more often than not, conditioned to feel guilty, almost ashamed. Those around them are unsure how to react and thus will brush it off as a “phase” (if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone describe a potential case of clinical depression as that, I would already be considering retirement plans), an uncertain territory not to be discussed in daylight, a source of laughter and humour or sometimes even supernatural influences.
Yes, depression is a very personal experience, which explains why it requires tremendous amount of courage for people to come forward and speak about it. But lack of awareness of the condition only adds to the problems at hand.
Can We Please Treat Depression Like a Legit Medical Condition?
It is always easy to call in and say:
Hey, I have a stomach-ache, may I please not come in?
But would it be the same if we were to say:
Hey, I have a crippling sense of pain that makes me too sad to come out of bed today, may I please not come in?
We have been conditioned to treat a disease as one only if it has some overt, physical symptoms.
Depression is a legitimate medical condition. Any mental disorder is a result of chemical imbalances within the body requiring professional help to be set right, along with support from loved ones.
Forty percent of my clients are people who are caregivers of others suffering from depression. For many of them battling with the constant mood changes of their partner, spouse or parent can be pretty exhausting. But if they hold on, which they learn in therapy, their love and empathy can leave huge impacts in the improvement of the other. Depression is like any other physical disease. Therefore one needs equal care and affection to heal as he or she would require during a flu or an infection.Dr Gaurav Deka
Though enough emphasis cannot be laid on how far love and some simple assistance can go in taking a clinically person to the point where they are finally prepared to make the choice towards healing, the final step would have to be taken by the person in question themself. It’s the final step on a long road, and a reliable ecosystem is an absolute must in getting there.
Dr Deka comments on similar lines and says:
In any form of traditional or non-traditional psychotherapy, we always focus on the “perspectives” we are able to give to the client/patient. The choice of course remains with the client/patient. In depression, because of the endlessness of the situation, what one loses immediately is hope for another alternate reality. An able therapist can show the other person that he or she has a choice, even in the most unpleasant of times. It is then that they can slowly act upon these choices and bring a difference into their lives. One is never choiceless, though within depression one may constantly feel that there is no choice at all.
A Space to Talk About It
The Indian society needs to create within itself a space where not only depression, but repression (a significant cause of depression), anxiety and panic attacks, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, to name few, are accepted as daily realities many people are living with.
We are lucky to exist in an age where there is relatively more chatter about mental illness and related disorders. Even though at least the movement has begun in the right direction, there is still a long way to go.
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