Share a bottle of wine with a friend, and you’re most likely to discover this unnerving fact. Among other usual slews of the same old stories around their 9 to 6 job and some random tittle-tattle, that friend’s silent suffering of depression is likely to sneak into the conversations. Alternatively, it could also be you spilling subtle hints about your depressed mental state. However, on second thought, what if it isn’t depression at all?
You hear the term ‘depression’ so often from people of every age, every walk of life and every kind today; it’s so common that the term ‘Mental Health’ is almost synonymous with it. Though, that is exactly the reason why students are no more hiding it under the façade of their hormonal outbursts; they are seeking counselling. Parents are no longer dodging the matter with a ‘My kid is not sick’ attitude; instead, they are encouraging help for their younger ones. Friends and family have started acknowledging odd behavioural patterns in each other while also aiding each other out of that state. We are getting more and more vocal and accepting towards these topics and the sufferers, relieving them off the silent suffering by talking about it with an open-mind. However, just as we’re getting closer to one goal, we’re unknowingly opening the doorway to other toxic waves of mental illness.
If someone is unusually irritable with loss of interest in their hobbies, the thought of them being depressed would come to your mind almost instantly.
Now, if you find someone lashing out at you one minute and being intensely apologetic to you another minute, you would be repulsed. You wouldn’t think twice about that behavioural problem and that it might have been triggered by a valid mental disorder that is not depression. Someone who frequently engages in impulsive and self-destructive behaviour to comfort themselves when upset and displays explosive anger with extreme mood swings; that person can easily be labelled as a ‘maniac’. You may not give that strange pattern another thought at all. If you’re someone who has a descent understanding of the human mind, you may call these traits consequences of ‘Depression.’ Nonetheless, the real cause of these behaviours may never be reached. One, because you may not be aware of disorders that carry those symptoms. Two, you may just be closed to the idea of issues like Borderline Personality Disorder to actually exist around you in people you know.
There may have been so many people you’ve come across who displayed or suffered from mental abnormality of some extent, which may have gone unnoticed by you and probably the sufferers themselves. Substance abuse, in simple terms, Drug addiction, which has most sufferers amongst youngsters is talked about more as an offense than as an issue that needs help. Anxiety disorders also exist just as much as depression does, but isn’t well understood by people. Personality disorders, which are behavioural patterns often seen in adolescents that interfere with a person’s social functioning and relationships is another prevalent mental issue that many don’t understand well.
Mood disorders – elevation or lowering of a person’s mood like Bi-polar disorder often get rolled under the label of ‘crazy’. Moreover, Schizophrenia and Dementia – highly common amongst elderly people and ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, often seen in kids are other disorders as common as Depression that often go unidentified due to lack of awareness. If we know about the signs and symptoms of these mental issues just as well as we know of Depression, it would be easier for sufferers to be identified, and for their plight to be acknowledged.
Lot of times, Depression may also be a symptom or a by-product of another mental ailment. Someone with anorexia (Obsessive desire to lose weight) may experience depressive episodes instigated by social neglect and self-image issues. Someone suffering from Substance Abuse might develop depression owing to their inability to lose the addiction and social stigmatization. And someone with Hyper-sexuality might experience it due to shame, guilt, and the taboo around sex in the society.
All of us have considerably good knowledge on physical ailments and problems. We are well-equipped with most of their symptoms, causes, and remedies. We don’t fumble while talking about physical illness out in the open. More importantly, we are open to talking about them freely, asking questions about them and discussing them without any restraints. Some of us might even have healthy knowledge about mental disorders through education and the internet. However, the same can’t be talked about and discussed with friends and family as transparently as physical disorders can be. Hence, the hesitancy and the lack of awareness persist largely.
‘As the new age today gets more proactive towards mental health, it’s time we don’t leave this topic half-baked in our minds, and try to understand all that constitutes Mental Health.’, Anastasia Dedhia, Clinical Psychologist and founder at Mind Mantra.
So maybe next time you call someone crazy for their oddity, remember that there is a lot more that stains the human mind than what we just know of. There’s more to mental health than just depression.
And maybe, understanding that fact is the first step to destigmatizing mental health with a full sweep.
Image illustration – Vikas Singh