Up until July 20, 2017, I didn’t realize who Chester Bennington was. Although I have listened to many of his songs, I never put a name to his face. I used to sing his songs all day without actually understanding too much of the lyrics. It was the hype that made me look up his name. When I saw the words ‘Linkin Park vocalist’ beside his name, I knew what I had lost. Up until then, I did not know how it felt to lose a part of your childhood. People were talking a lot about depression then, posting statuses about how depression has also affected their lives and what should be done. And just after, like all the other social media trends, depression faded away from our purview and we focused on the latest spectacle. Discussion about depressed and the need to address them took the back seat.
When one is overcome by depression, friends and family can’t see what they are suffering from, what keeps them locked inside their room all day, and what makes them stop interacting with everyone. But it is a multidimensional, complex mental health disorder which has social, psychological, and biological origins. When news of depression and suicide arises, I have noticed people making insensitive and ignorant comments about selfishness and seeking attention. People fail to understand things that they can’t see or relate to. I myself found it very difficult to fathom this disorder, mostly because of the constant dilution of the illness and its effects. I don’t blame those who fail to grasp the severity of this illness. I believe we are just as much responsible for the dilution of its concept by normalizing it and associating every feeling of sorrow with depression.
Mental health is something that needs to be talked about a lot more because people who actually suffer from depression often resort to isolation. But in order for us to talk about it, we need to understand it better. Below are some common myths about depression that are pervasive and harmful.
- Depression is just another word for sadness
While deep sadness can be a symptom of depression, it is not the same thing. Sadness comes and goes, but depression is a chronic condition that pervades a person’s life and doesn’t fade on its own. Sadness is also not the only emotion that is experienced by people suffering from depression. They experience a mix of emptiness, apathy, anxiety, and tension in varying degrees while going about their lives.
- It’s a sign of weakness and you can just snap out of it if you want
This is a very common stigma against depression and is one of the main reasons why people, especially men, decide to suffer silently rather than seek help. People often think it’s a sign of weakness, laziness, or self-pity and can be cured with positive thoughts and distractions. But no one chooses to be depressed.
I saw a close relative of mine suffer from the dreadful pangs of depression and I realized how devastating it actually is. She suffered for weeks before she could talk to people normally before she could smile again and start feeling things around her. All of us around her suffered with her and could do nothing as she started to isolate herself from everything. I realized that for someone like her to go on with her daily life with this illness takes great strength and resilience.
- It’s something that only affects rich people
The other day, I heard one of my friends saying that his cousin is suffering from depression because she was left with nothing to be depressed about. What he meant by this is that she is bored with nothing to occupy her, and those who know how to work don’t have the time to be depressed. However, depression does not discriminate and anyone can be affected by it.
- There must be a traumatic origin story
When people hear that someone is depressed, they always try to find a reason. Perhaps a death in the family, abuse, a trauma. But, depression is a medical condition that affects your brain’s chemistry and ability to function. So often, even when there no discernible reasons, people can suffer from unexplained hopelessness and lethargy which can last for unpredictable amounts of time.
- It’s not a real illness but just attention seeking behavior
Depression is a serious medical condition. Research has found that those with depression actually have physical differences in their brains and exhibit hormonal imbalances. Like other illnesses, depression can affect all aspects of a person’s life like their moods, behavior, and reactions. Saying that it is only for the purpose of seeking attention trivializes the physical and emotional distress people with depression feel and discourages them from seeking treatment.
- Talking about it will make it worse
Culturally, we are not good at talking about uncomfortable things and depression is definitely a subject we tiptoe around. It is a common mistake to think that discussing depression will only reinforce negative feelings. But being able to express feelings is very helpful for those who are feeling hopeless. Research has shown that even for those who are entertaining suicidal thoughts, it is more helpful to discuss it. So next time, when faced with such a situation, rather than trying to avoid the topic or distract them, try to listen non- judgmentally, exhibit empathy, and engage in discussion.
If we are able to dispel myths around the topic and speak to those who are suffering, we can initiate a conversation and let them feel that they are being heard. Then, more people will feel encouraged to express their feelings before taking any destructive self-harming action and take steps to seek the support they need. It’s time we, as a society, embraced this illness and those who suffer from it on a regular basis. Otherwise, just like Chester, we will lose our loving memories and loved ones to something that we don’t understand.
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