It’s really hard for many to put the words young and depressed side by side in a single sentence. However, times they are but changing, and so should be our understanding of depression.
Life for youngsters can get really stressful at times. The pressure to belong in alien environments at universities and colleges, the struggle to garner acceptance from peers for who you are and what you believe in, and the constant battles with bullying and shaming from mates, and even teachers, often leave young boys and girls in a state of self-doubt. And often, these symptoms of low self-esteem and diminished self-worth turn into full blown disease of chronic or clinical depression for many if the right external interventions are not enforced.
The recent death of a BNU student in Lahore who committed suicide on university premises and last month’s suicide by an engineering student at Institute of Engineering and Fertilizer Research (IEFR) offer hints about the fatal repercussions depression in youngsters can lead to.
The girl in question, as evident from her posts, had been a subject of ridiculing by her peers, while the boy from IEFR cited continued failure in exams at the hands of an alleged biased teacher as the reason for taking the drastic step.
Not Worth It?
No matter how sad the deaths make us, they cannot be more saddening than the fact that depression and other such mental health issues, especially among the younger lot, are still not given the importance and attention these potent diseases merit.
Depression is one of the most common global mental health problems in the present times. The seriousness and severity of the problem varies, from temporary stress and anxiety to a permanent feelings of loss and loneliness. Some common symptoms of depression include a feeling of hopelessness or emptiness, sadness and inability to experience pleasure, irregular sleeping patterns, irregular eating patterns and problems in concentration and decision making.
In its most serious form, depression can lead to self-destructive thoughts where a person looks for ways to liberate oneself from the emotional pain through extreme measures, such as suicide.
Depression? Cut The C**p!
However, the Pakistani society is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that depression exists, is real and that chronic depression needs as much medical care as any other life-threatening disease.
The mere mention of anyone being a depressive attracts comments like “drama queen” and “actor”, highlighting the apathy our society has towards the suffering of others. What is most surprising is the fact that even the most relatable sources of emotional comfort for us humans – family, friends, parents, siblings – also tend to play down the suffering of a depressive, hence catapulting the patient into an abyss of pain and agony.
According to WHO, 2,190 people commit suicide each day, 90 in one hour and almost four people die each minute at the hands of mental health issues
Depression can be alleviated with timely measures and strategies such as social support, family support, changes in routine and coping strategies, such as exercise and reading. Sometimes, all a depressive may need is someone to understand his or her pain and offer a few words of comfort and support. Sadly, many seeking just these small kindness are subjected to even more ridicule from some of the closest people around them.
And that has become the reason that people with depressive notions tend to keep cocooned within themselves; pushing their selves deeper into the void.
According to a report by released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018, almost 800,000 people commit suicide annually. This is also becoming one of the leading causes of death around the world, where approximately 2,190 people commit suicide each day, 90 in one hour and almost four people die each minute on the hands of mental health issues.
The first step for Pakistan in the fight against depression has to be recognising the fact that depression is not an antic to gain attention or “look cool and different”. Only the person wearing the shoe knows where it bites, so it’s imperative to take people for their word and stop judging them for anything else.
Only the person wearing the shoe knows where it bites, so it’s imperative to take people for their word and stop judging them for anything else
Tackling, and helping those suffering around you tackle, depression is not necessarily hard. If you think one of your friends or even a family member exhibits any of the signs of depression discussed above, you should step in to help. Some of the most basic things one can do to help a depressive is talk to him or her in private. Listen carefully and validate their feelings and experiences like you mean it. Be and act supportive and do not shy away from expressing concern about the situation. Ask him, or her, if he or she is having thoughts of suicide to gauge the level of frustration and depression. Encourage and convince the sufferer to seek counselling and assure him or her that there is no stigma in seeking medical aid. These simple deeds can well mean the difference between well-being and suffering for a depressive.
University administrations should also up their game in this respect. Besides the routine career counselling that many educational institutes offer, there should be a resource for personal counselling as well available at all university campuses. Experts like clinical psychologist should be at the beck and call of students in case they need support to make it through the pressures of personal and academic struggles.
Youngsters who think they are experiencing bouts of depression must also realise that there is no shame in seeking help, and that seeking it may actually help alleviate their suffering.
But the shame attached to talking about depression will only dilute if the society in general becomes accepting of depression as a medical condition, not an attention-gaining antic. A greater public debate on the matter is the need of the hour.
We will continue to express our two minutes of sadness and RIP posts on social media unless we realise the reality of depression and its effect. Let’s start today, for someone in pain might be contemplating ending the agony once and for all tomorrow.