Depression. There is so much to say about it and yet, no one is talking. In a strange way we are all victim to the effect of the disease, and the appearance of it. We keep silent. All while depression continues its ascent upwards in nearly all societies of the world. And this is why, an opportunity to sit together and talk freely about what it means, can be a paradise. The Founder’s Wellness: Let’s Talk Depression, hosted by Mettá, offered us just that. And even though we were a small handful of participants, the ideas we shared could and are saving lives.
So what is depression? Well, its a continued feeling of dejection that tends to alienate all sufferers. The American Psychiatric Association puts it better as, ‘a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act;’ luckily, it can be cured. The way you spot depression varies from person to person but it is very important we learn to pick on it. Usually it results in a great lack of interest in activities that one may have previously enjoyed, and an overwhelming feeling of sadness. It lasts nearly two weeks in most cases but at times it could carry on longer. Nearly everyone can suffer from it and for this reason, everyone must give it the proper time and research so they can understand what is real. There is, after all, more to depression than just the appearance of it. The internal mechanisms play a part too. And to know more about it is quite simple. We watched a video!
Osmosis is an online platform that, in their own words, works to ‘give super visual and deep explanations for medical topics, like pathophysiology, all compacted into short, succinct, fun, and comprehensive videos.’ And truly, their video on Clinical Depression was enlightening. It exposed to all of us the inner workings of this disease and in turn helped us avoid ‘blame’ and instead focus on ‘help.’ This was the start of our discussion.
Although we understand the rudimentary meaning of the word and even the lengthy explanations of any lecture hall, we don’t quite know what it means from a personal level. Unless you experience it on your own, depression can be like reading a story book. You see the character slump his shoulders, while his finger quivers on the big red button. You see it only as those starry imaginations in your head before the next chapter reveals the impossible death. And we all do agree, some way or another, that depression is even more personal. The person trapped by this disease feels what they feel because it is their own story. We can pick up on the new chapter and sense the changes in tone and hyperbole but we cannot really know what its like. Without that intimate understanding we have no right to judge. That is why, above all else, depression is never a fault like most African societies express it to be.
In Africa the very idea of sitting together with your loved one and pouring your hearts out, in regard to depression, is, unheard of. Most of the audience testified to never having such a candid discussion with their family members since, well, their earliest thoughts. The talk on depression was passed on to specific classrooms and bizarre job meetings, but never a dining room or living room experience. In this continent it is still a taboo topic and sign of great weakness to anyone in that state. And this actually intensifies the problem because the means of ‘help’ and ‘understanding’ are lost when the finger comes pointing back at the character and saying, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ ‘why can’t you be normal.’ A discussion like this, and many others in the future, offers us the opportunity to break the boundary and realise that this ‘personal problem’ needs the presence of others.
And the conclusion of it all is the most important thing to note. As much as depression is complex, quickly misunderstood and easily ignored, it needs people to change it. Someone suffering from the disease could, in their mind, be on the last chapter that offers only one quick getaway before the reader tosses the book. But we need to remind them that we are still reading. Silly as it may sound in analogy, tackling depression needs the effort of the family, community, schools, institutions, work places and government. And most important, us as individuals. Because most cases of depression are brought about by life experiences, family dynamics, economic strains and well, society as a whole.
It all starts with building the right kind of society. Or rather, building the right kind of individual. Depression remains always a mental problem that can affect anyone and for this reason it needs a mentally aware individual. People suffering from it need to know that there is no ‘fault’ needed only a way to look forward. They need to know how to reach out, who to reach out to and most important why. They need to learn ways of coping that can benefit them, like exercise and activity. And most important they need to give themselves time away from what could be hurting them so that their minds and hearts regain a proper rhythm. As for others on the outside of the story, we play a crucial part too. Understanding hits high on the list and goes well with words like ‘other’s shoes’ and ‘no comparisons.’ Hopefully you understand! Such a group also needs to know those around them and their behaviours so they can better spot a problem and offer a comforting hand. Among ourselves we should work to create the environment that proves we are the kind of society better philosophers would be proud of.
Depression then can be overcome, with time, patience and understanding, long before the chapters start thinning. With information and awareness, the kind received from such ground-breaking meetings, we can get the most necessary part of our society moving forward. The Individual!