I admire the (temporary?) openness about depression that is being displayed in the media and online in the wake of World Health Day on 7th April. After Diabetes, food safety, superbugs as past themes, World Health Organization officials chose to focus on their year-long campaign ‘Depression : Let’s Talk” in 2017. Their goal is to make the general public more aware of depression, its causes and that it can be treated.
Depression Is A Disease, Not A Choice
Like cancer, depression kills a certain amount of its victims; like cancer, it’s an illness, not a weakness. Even so, most people are ashamed to admit that they are sufferers – instead carry an attitude that depression is a failure of strength or character.
From a young age children will refer to others as “crazy” or “weird”; these terms are used commonly throughout adulthood as well. Often the negative stereotypes involve perceptions that people with mental illness are dangerous. This perception is fueled by media stories that paint violent perpetrators with “a history of mental illness” without providing the context of the broad spectrum of mental illness. Kangana Ranaut is branded as a ‘mad woman’ because she opened up in a supposed email to fellow actor Hrithik Roshan that she had Asperger’s.
Often, a depressed person is told to ‘snap out of it’. They don’t choose depression. They may have a cognitive leaning toward interpreting events and feelings in a certain way, but they don’t choose to get or stay depressed. The fact that it runs in families should indicate to fair-minded people that it has a genetic aspect as well. You may get your blue eyes from your mother and your blue feelings from her as well.
Actor Deepika Padukone’s admission that she suffered from depression also brings to fore the fact that 1 in 4 teens in India of 13-15 age group have depression. Her recently launched Live Love Laugh Foundation aims to be a common platform where everyone can get comprehensive knowledge about depression, connect with professionals, get genuine help and find comfort knowing that they’re not alone.
Your Ignorance Is The Cause Of Stigma
I often wonder if we’ll live to see the day when we can talk about issues like depression or addiction in the corridors of our apartments with concerned neighbors without speaking in hushed tones, as if we have something to hide or be ashamed about.
To me, there’s only one thing standing in the way of our ability to care for mentally ill people in this country, and around the world: stigma.
Getting a degree in Psychology early on helped me – It made me aware about the human mind, it’s foibles and the benefits of seeking therapy. I learned to not be ashamed if I have depression or anxiety because truth be told, you’re abnormal if you don’t have some form of it.
Getting Help Is Key
I met Dr. BR Madhukar, now Chief Of Psychiatric Services, Cadabams more than 11 years ago at his home office. As a young girl embarking on an ambitious career path, it was not always easy to navigate through heartbreaks, parental pressures, crazy schedules and petty office politics. And, I’m grateful I had the courage to ask for help when I needed it.
I have cried, cursed, laughed, smiled, and so much more in the safe space of that office. Through heartbreak and finding new love, my mom’s death, celebrating new jobs and careers, helping me cope with work stress, allowing me to lay my burdens down, identifying my strengths, encouraging me to pursue my passions, — Doc has been my touchstone.
Not many people can do his job and excel at it. His passion, grace and empathetic nature exudes through every word he says.
In addition to supporting me through the many ups and downs on my journey, what I’m most grateful for is his ability to see me and, in turn and more importantly, he’s helped me to see myself. This gift is one I am forever grateful to him for.
I thank you Doc for loving me when I couldn’t love myself : for your compassion, kindness, love, support and encouragement for the last 11 years. I would not be the woman I am today if it weren’t for you.
What You Can Do
Our thoughtless words and outdated attitudes about depression are helping perpetuate workplace discrimination, alienation from colleagues, friends and family, breeding dangerous stereotypes and deterring sufferers from seeking professional help.
I urge you to learn about the condition, talk openly about depression to help break down stigma and encourage more people to seek help.
Dr.BR Madhukar is going to be Live on CNBC-TV18’s Facebook page at 10am today 7th April, 2017 answering queries with regards to depression and dealing with it.
I’ll be tuning in, you do too! Oh and here’s wishing you good physical and mental health this World Health Day!
Update: If you missed watching live, you can watch the 32 minute chat here.