Depression : we hear about it all the time. In recent headlines, we hear about the unfortunate passings of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Sometimes we hear it in our local news, mothers attacking their children, teenagers taking their own lives. Lives lost in the battle against depression. But what do we actually know about this illness? Yes, I called it an illness. And no, I am not mistaken. Here’s why :
- It’s not “nothing”.
Over the years, the term “depression” was merely described as an over-exaggeration of sad. Countless times, society has brushed it aside. We have deemed it as “nothing”. But with all that we know about depression and to all the effects of depression on people, we know better than to call it nothing.
Depression is an illness, a psychiatric illness that radically impairs your daily functioning. It is not a feeling or a phase. It is a real world issue, and we need to start talking about it. There needs to be more dialogue about depression, and how we can help those who are suffering through it.
- The stigma is real.
Needless to say, in our Asian community, depression does not cater very well to others. The stigma that surrounds depression and affected individuals creates an environment of isolation.
Individuals who suffer from depression are deprived and, practically, robbed of their image. They are seen are dysfunctional, weak, unimpressive, sensitive and melodramatic.
When in reality, you would never describe someone with diabetes the same way. The stigma surrounding depression is that it is fake, a fake disease. On the contrary, mental health is just as important as physical health.
And thousands of people who are affected by depression can prove to you just how real the disease really is.
- It is more common than you would assume.
Depression is a pandemic. Millions are affected by the disease, but to scale it down to Malaysia : in 2015, the prevalence of mental health problems, including depression, was 29.2%. That’s approximately 8.9 million “rakyat Malaysia” who are suffering. Depression and anxiety make up for 15.7% of that 8.0 million. That’s approximately 1.3million people who have a type of depressive disorder or anxiety disorder. How much more statistics do we need before we actually take this seriously? What makes these stats worse is that the data on depression is Malaysia is highly unreported. A lot of people are experiencing symptoms but are not coming forward or receiving treatment for their illness. It is expected that mental health illnesses will be the second biggest health problem affecting Malaysians by the year 2020.
- There are so many misconceptions.
No, depression is not contagious. No, depression is not a lie. No, depression is not to be taken lightly. No, depression is not necessarily caused by low faith. There are a number of factors that contribute to depression, from substance abuse to physical abuse.
From peer bullying to social anxiety. From post-partum to terminal illnesses. There is no one single “depression” illness. Depression is an umbrella term, and it has many branches. It is unfair to penalise the affected individual and place them in a confined box of our misconceptions when all that they need is just someone to listen.
- It is a silent killer.
The scariest and more dangerous thing about depression is it’s stealthiness. Depression is silent. Depression is deadly. Thousands of people go on with their lives, hiding their depression due to the stigma. Some become so entrapped in their own charades that their precious lives are taken in the battle.
Depression is treatable, we can help. We can always help. So many lives were lost to depression, and we need to do better than that. We know better, and we can help those in need. We can do better.
Broaden your horizons on the illness that is depression. If you are suffering, seek help. And if you know anyone in need of help, lend a listening ear or support them to seek help. You are not alone, you do not need to be alone. Help one another, support one another.