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Be There For Them


Atika Sheikh

“Unlike physical pain and diseases, people don’t seem to understand the agony of a depressed person. Our lack of empathy makes the patient more miserable and lonely”

I read somewhere on the internet that,“depression is like drowning, but everyone around you is breathing.”It caught my attention and I started to think about it.

Drowning is when you are trapped under water and have lost all the will to swim for your life. You are choking and unable to breathe, you wait to die so you can finally escape this nightmare.

But as the quote says, everyone around you is breathing, it implies that the people around you are completely unable to understand your misery. People around you, your friends, family, and colleagues can’t even accept the fact that you are not getting any “oxygen” to survive.

It is like wanting to croak as you see no other escape from your vaguedifficulties. As I am no expert to give any professional or medical explanation of depression so I tried to briefly elaborate it, using a quote.

In Pakistan, 34% of the population is suffering from depression. Men, women, youngsters, belonging to different social classes are all part of it.Depression affects both, mental and physical health of a person. In short, making a person less functional in the social realm.  

A lengthy list of reasons is behind it, ranging from social and economic factors to personal issues. Leaving aside the debate on the reasons and consequences of depression, let’s analyze our perceptions about it. And how people react towards this serious issue.

Mostly, when someone musters up the courage to tell about his/her mental problems and discomfort, they are immediately served with a cold response of “oho, kchnahihota”.

Sometimes their family and friends suggest them to just “snap out of it”. On other occasions we try to bring up much worse cases from our personal lives and enter into the contest of “who has suffered the most”. Instead of listening to them, we start to belittle their problems let alone suggest them to seek medical help.

What most people don’t understand is that the person suffering from depression is unable to see the “bright side” in his life. Their problems, no matter how insignificant they seem to us, are blood sucking monsters latched on their backs.

Unfortunately, in our society depression is taken synonymous to sadness. It is not considered as a mental disorder by many people. As per a research study conducted in Karachi, only 37.8% of the people acknowledged depression as a mental disorder. This is due to lack of education and awareness on one hand and the stigma of “mental illness” on the other that prevails in our culture.

Mostly, we advise them to get spiritual help, to pray more and strengthen their relation with God. Well, it helps but it is only a part of the solution. Professional help is indispensable for the treatment of depression.

The first step in solving any problem is to accept that there exists one. So there is a need to create awareness among the masses regarding depression as an illness.On this year’s mental health day, WHO focused on the theme of “preventing suicides”.

Experts found that 71 per cent of the people, who decided to end their lives suffered from depression. This figure suggests that depression makes a person dissatisfied with themselves and their lives to the extent that they see no purpose of living.  So whenever we list all the “good things” in the depressed person’s life, we need to remind ourselves that he/she is unable to cherish those blessings.

They are trapped in a tunnel where all they see is darkness and despair. Their mental condition won’t let them feel the sunshine upon them or let them see the colors of rainbow. And our words will be meaningless to them.

The downside of mental illness, like depression is that the people around you want you to suffer in silence. Unlike physical pain and diseases, people don’t seem to understand the agony of a depressed person. Our lack of empathy makes the patient more miserable and lonely than he/she already is.

Sadness, grief, heartache, misery and sorrow are all emotions that come and go in a person’s life. They come as visitors but depression is a permanent resident. It won’t leave a person and will prove to be the most faithful of friends. It is resilient towards compassion and motivational lectures.

It has a thick skin that repels all the good vibes coming its way. It slowly but gradually takes over its host. Happy thoughts and positive emotions are his favorite appetite. It will draw every ounce of jouissance, dragging the sufferer down in the dumps. Until all the lights are out from the person’s life.

With the increasing cases of people suffering from depression it is imperative to start a nationwide awareness campaign about it. We should employ all the mediums of communication to spear head that movement. The acceptance of depression as a mental illness is equally important for the patients and their families. The stigma surrounding the psychological problems should be obliterated.

And unless we change our attitude towards the depressed, we will have to share the blame for every lost soul that departed while believing that, it was not worth living!

  • The writer is MPhil scholar at the University of Punjab and can be reached at atikasheikh56@gmail.com