It seems like this month has been an unsettling kickstart to a conversation about depression and mental health as a whole. Kate Spade, 55, the visionary and founder of the brand Kate Spade New York was found deceased in her apartment in an apparent suicide. As we were all reeling over the shock of this news, we woke up one musty afternoon to another shocking but similar news of chef Anthony Bourdain's suicide. He was 61 and seemingly in happy place. If these cases aren't a sign to take mental illness as a serious phenomenon then we don't know what is.
Actress Alia Bhatt's sister, Shaheen Bhatt decided it was high time that she took charge and spoke about this. She penned down a piece for a leading website about how she could have easily been one of these people or the many more 'seemingly happy' people before them who have been struggling with mental health issues but haven't been vocal enough. She likes to think that she has been living with depression rather than struggling with it as it is still a very active part of her life.
"I’ve lived with depression since I was 12 years old and since then I’ve been suicidal on more than one occasion. I’ve experienced the sheer terror of contemplating a life filled with unrelenting anguish, and I’ve been consumed by the terrifying thought of having but a single means of escape from a bleak, unbearable future."
What rattled her was not the idea that a lot more people like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain who have chosen to end their anguish by ending their lives but the fact that they decided to take this step not in their 20s or 30s but at an age when everyone thinks they would have their life together.
"The statistics on depression itself are equally staggering. Globally, more than 300 million people live with depression and it is now the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression is everywhere, and still, it is nowhere. While there has been a definite upswing in conversation about depression and mental illness, it’s still such a taboo that we tend to talk about it in hushed tones and whispers."
In November 2016, she spoke up about her depression and her struggle with mental health on social media. But because of the way depression is perceived, she thought that her name would always be linked to this aspect of her life. She was afraid she would be that 'depressed girl' but she did persevere and she did continue to talk about her depression. This, so that people would understand that even though depression is not the ONLY identifying thing about her but it was still a part of her.
I've lived with depression on and off since I was about 13 years old. This is not a revelation or a confession. Those who know me know this about me. It's not something I take any pains to hide, I'm not ashamed of it or particularly troubled by it. It's just a part of who I am. I have days where I feel good and then I have days where I don't. One minute everything's fine and the next it's like someone turned the light off inside my head. I go quiet and it's difficult to get out of bed. Like it always does the world around me loses focus and I struggle to make sense of it. Sometimes these bouts last an hour - sometimes they last days. Today, I'm on day 4. I say I live with depression rather than I struggle with it because for me (and I speak only for myself here) I don't see why it has to be a struggle. I once read an idea by an American essayist called Richard Mitchell which stayed with me; it's now become how I try to approach the dips in my week or month. The idea is this: To be sick, or to suffer, is inevitable. But to become bitter and vindictive in sickness and suffering and to surrender to irrationality, supposing yourself the innocent and virtuous victim of the evils intentions of the world, is not inevitable. The appropriate answer to the question - Why me? is the other question - Why not me? *** Why am I writing about this? Well, I spend a fair amount of time on social media during the course of my day and today I found myself looking for something to post because it's been a few days since I've posted anything. I couldn't find anything so I figured I'd just talk about this - how I'm doing, instead of what I'm doing. It's as simple as that, and we could all stand to do a little more of it. P.S. That picture just seemed to work in this context.
"We don’t like to talk about depression because there is nothing romantic or glamorous about feeling like you’re losing your mind; no attractive selfies are waiting to be taken when you’re curled up crying on the floor, no witty one-liners are floating around your mind to tweet for likes. We don’t like talking about suicide because as animals, the very thought of taking our own life goes against every natural instinct we possess."
I agree with her wholeheartedly. The dialogue related to mental health is still very strained and we need to talk about it more until it isn't anymore. It shouldn't be a thing about being 'brave' when someone speaks up and it definitely shouldn't be in hush tones. Understanding mental health, depression and suicide for what it is and seeing it as a normal occurrence is what will save a lot of people and a lot of lives. Until then, we are glad that people like Shaheen, Deepika Padukone, Zaira Wasim, Illeana D'Cruz and more who keep stepping up to the plate and bring this hushed phenomenon into the light every now and then.