Dealing with Depression

Veera is a published Author (‘Endured’ and ‘#LoveBitesLifeHacks’) and Columnist; a passionate Educator and Counsellor; Poet and Philosopher… but most of all, a lover of all things literary. 

 Just 34 years of age, Television and Bollywood actor – Sushant Singh Rajput was already an acclaimed presence on the big screen. His was the typical story of fame, glitz, glamour, rising from obscurity to stardom with all the makings of a typical filmy blockbuster. He had looks, recognition, charm and several memorable performances under his belt in the few short years of his acting career. But on 14th of June, his death sent shock waves across the entire nation as he was found hanging at his Bandra residence – a sad end to a shining star. The actor had spoken to his sister that very morning at 9 am, and despite having two friends staying with him in his house at that time, there were no indications in the slightest, on that particular day as to the state of his troubled mind. It was reported as a case of ‘suicide’ – a simple word on the surface but how tragic are its implications. Shocked and saddened with his death, friends and fans, industry colleagues all posted pictures with the late actor, recalling, reminiscing memories and associations. His death has opened a floodgate of conversations regarding mental health conditions and suicide awareness. He seemingly had it all, yet decided to exit the world through the backdoor. Why?

Mental health is clearly a concern in the best of times but with the pandemic looming large, there is an altogether different kind of cataclysm – almost wavelike, poorly understood, but a threat nonetheless, surrounding us everywhere and nowhere, a contagion nearly as psychological as  it is physical. The mental health toll of the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to show itself, and it is too early to predict the scale of the impact.

 Nearly everyone is fearful, even panicked. Fear of catching the virus, fear of the future, fear of the unknown and most of all – fear of knowing how to cope with their feelings of fear. Mental health experts predict an avalanche of mental health issues and needs, the kind we’ve never seen, as the pandemic progresses. There is no doubt that the pandemic will be the most psychologically toxic disaster in anyone’s lifetime. 

The greater the uncertainty surrounding a disaster, the greater is the psychological casualty. The collateral damage of this Pandemic is manifold. Massive job losses, pay cuts, loss of business, profit resulting from the economic shutdown, compounded by an increased social isolation… all lead up to a recipe for casualty. Global reports of higher suicide rates are a cause of concern. That mental health is a very relevant issue in our times, was already a cause for concern with most health experts. Those with prevalent conditions were already vulnerable to the pandemic, but now even those who have never experienced a mental disorder or mental illness, are beginning to show symptoms of the same – panic attacks, short emotional fuse, meltdowns, inability to get out of bed in the mornings, emotional disconnect, social isolation… yes depression can manifest in many ways. The feeling of losing control or a grip on one’s life suddenly can create irreparable damage. 

Now is the time to reassess and refocus on our futures. A lot can change and a lot will change – our perspective on things needs a shift. There are some positives we can hold onto here and build a more cohesive world from it. Of course, no one is welcoming the pandemic; it is rather difficult to see a potential silver lining in these novel times. But focusing on the upside of any disaster gives one hope… 

  • There has been a tangible improvement in the environment with the decrease in carbon footprint. 
  • People have learnt that time is not only precious, but available, if we choose not to squander it endlessly on things that really don’t matter in the end. 
  • The lockdown has promoted family time – the kind we’ve never experienced before. People planned their lives around schedules, now schedules are planned around lives.
  •  For many ‘All work and no play’, was a way of life; perhaps now, the realisation that ‘Work is what you do, not who you are’, may finally sink in.
  • While this pandemic has taught us all to expect the unexpected or anything is possible, it has also taught us a valuable lesson of planning ahead and saving for the future.
  • It has reinforced the importance of our medical community and significance of all aspects of healthcare. Hospitals need to be safer, cleaner environments, well equipped, well staffed. Healthcare facilities should be accessible to every citizen.
  •  Perhaps the most important and valuable lesson taught here is, ‘build relationships, not things’. Surround yourself with genuine relationships, for it is people and not things that finally matter. 
  • The Corona scare created a new rhythm of life. Under the lockdown, we created new daily routines that prioritise looking after ourselves. While physical fitness became the focus under the lockdown, managing and dealing with mental health also came to the forefront.

We know there are many ways and reasons this pandemic can take a toll on your mental health. Staying mindful and addressing your psychological well-being is primary as well. One needs to be proactive about taking care of your mind and emotions during this time. Whether you suffer from a pre existing psychological disorder or not, we are all susceptible and vulnerable during these times. ‘Depression isn’t always all about Suicide notes and Pill bottles!’ Owning up to your feelings, venting your emotions, talking to friends or family can go a long way in alleviating your distress and helping you cope. Phone a friend, call out, reach out, stay connected, all this can go a long way to avert a disaster. 

Depression can manifest in various ways. Some call it living in a black hole, while others express feelings of impending doom, lifelessness and just feeling empty and apathetic. You may feel angry and restless, but no matter how hopeless the feeling, the thing to remember is that you can get better. You need to surround yourself with people you love, trust and can be your strength.

When you know someone is depressed, the first step is to recognise the signs and reach out. You have to offer your unconditional support. If the person is unwilling to talk, continue to offer your time and support. Tell them, show them you care. Ask how you can help. Tell them you understand and it’s ok to feel this way. Most of all emphasize that there is always hope. Urge them to seek professional help. Keep reminding them that they matter.

It is only in the aftermath of a tragedy that we deign to pause and reflect. Think, “Could something have been done to avert the untimely and tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput?” Not all misfortunes need to end in tragedy.

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