Dy­ing to live

Des­tig­ma­tis­ing de­pres­sion can take the death out of the liv­ing, writes Elena Koshy

New Straits Times - - Pulse -

“ITRIED so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn’t even mat­ter,” Ch­ester Ben­ning­ton wails plain­tively on the cho­rus of In The End, an early sin­gle. In the end, it didn’t mat­ter to him. On July 20, the vo­cal­ist for the nu-metal band Linkin Park was found dead in his Cal­i­for­nia home from an ap­par­ent sui­cide.

Sui­cide has claimed yet an­other life. For a brief dark mo­ment in my life, it al­most claimed mine.

I tried to kill my­self once. When I was 13, full of angst and thought that life with all its twists and turns was just too hard to fig­ure out. It wasn’t a planned at­tempt. More like an im­pul­sive de­ci­sion that led to me at­tempt­ing to swal­low a sea of pills scat­tered on my bed.

Sui­cide can feel like a kind of dark con­ta­gion — an idea that slips into a room and lingers, cru­elly. It’s not a sud­den flick of a switch in your brain.

On the con­trary, it’s a build-up of cir­cum­stances and re­flec­tion, a long bat­tle against dark­ness and de­spair and the fact that you can no longer see the way for­ward with­out pain.

In his last poignant in­ter­view with The

Mir­ror, Ben­ning­ton men­tioned the feel­ings he’d been strug­gling with, in­clud­ing not even want­ing to get out of bed in the morn­ing.

He dis­cussed how he man­aged to move past his “demons” and ac­cepted that life might not al­ways be per­fect.

Shortly af­ter, he hung him­self — a re­minder that men­tal ill­ness is a tough beast to fight and that peo­ple can be say­ing one thing out­wardly and feel­ing quite the op­po­site in­ter­nally.

His death comes just two short months af­ter Au­dioslave vo­cal­ist Chris Cor­nel (Ben­ning­ton’s friend and oc­ca­sional col­lab­o­ra­tor) ended his life in a sim­i­lar man­ner.

Closer to home, a 20-year old col­lege stu­dent jumped off her con­do­minium in Se­ta­pak back in June af­ter writ­ing a sui­cide note to her mother, telling her that the pres­sures she was fac­ing was too much for her to han­dle. DARK TUN­NEL OF DE­PRES­SION

Why do peo­ple want to kill them­selves? It’s the one ques­tion ev­ery­one asks with­out ex­cep­tion. Why? For those whose loved ones suc­cumbed to sui­cide, it’s a ques­tion that rises from their be­wil­der­ment and guilt of fail­ing to see it com­ing.

For most part, sui­cide re­mains fes­ter­ing in the shad­ows. No­body likes to talk about sui­cide. The stigma that de­pres­sion and men­tal ill­ness only af­fect the weak and the lonely helps in prop­a­gat­ing its se­crecy and hin­ders any pos­si­bil­ity for in­ter­ven­tion.

It’s a chal­lenge nav­i­gat­ing through the tragedy for those who get left be­hind in the wake of a death by sui­cide.

Many fail to un­der­stand that in most cases, sui­cide is usu­ally the re­sult of mul­ti­ple causes, of­ten in­volv­ing de­pres­sion and not some­thing that can be blamed on a per­son or a sin­gle event.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) es­ti­mates that ap­prox­i­mately one mil­lion peo­ple die each year from sui­cide. That stag­ger­ing fig­ure makes the prospect of pre­vent­ing sui­cides daunt­ing.

Here, four out of ev­ery 10 Malaysians will fall vic­tim to some form of men­tal health is­sue in the course of their lives and many psy­chol­o­gists be­lieve that the num­bers will con­tinue to rise.

“Snap out of it!” or “Stop feel­ing sorry for your­self!” are some of the well-mean­ing ad­vice given by fam­ily and friends who think that de­pres­sion can be over­come through willpower alone. But they can’t be fur­ther from the truth.

The Malaysian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion de­fines de­pres­sion as “an ill­ness due to a chem­i­cal im­bal­ance in the brain”. It main­tains that it’s not a sign of per­sonal weak­ness or some­thing that you can “snap-out” of.

Many sui­cide cases are com­mit­ted by peo­ple who were de­pressed and un­treated. De­pres­sion is an ill­ness and should be treated as such.

Co­me­dian Robin Williams was beloved by Amer­ica and yet he felt deeply alone. His sui­cide was like the cul­mi­na­tion of a daily strug­gle with se­vere de­pres­sion. On-screen, he was funny, vi­va­cious and ready to make some­one smile. Off­screen, de­pres­sion ate him from within.

If this cel­e­brated star felt alone, imag­ine how iso­lated the av­er­age suf­ferer can be­come, locked in a strug­gle against de­pres­sion with lit­tle sup­port and un­der­stand­ing from fam­ily and friends. De­pres­sion can make you feel like the loneli­est per­son on earth. I’m well ac­quainted with that feel­ing.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUN­NEL The truth of the mat­ter is that while de­pres­sion can be a de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­ease, it can be ad­dressed.

How­ever, the stigma that ex­ists around men­tal ill­ness, de­pres­sion and sui­cide pre­vents peo­ple from seek­ing the help and sup­port they need.

Many sui­cides are pre­ventable and re­mov­ing the stigma is key to re­duc­ing the num­ber of peo­ple who take their own life.

My own jour­ney from be­ing in a dark tun­nel to fi­nally reach­ing the light wasn’t a quick one. But hav­ing friends and fam­ily to help me nav­i­gate through those dark mo­ments saved my life.

There are few things to un­der­stand if you’re strug­gling with de­pres­sion:

1. You’re not a fail­ure

You’re not a bad per­son, or crazy, or weak, or flawed be­cause you feel sui­ci­dal. It doesn’t even mean that you re­ally want to die — it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. Feel­ing sui­ci­dal hap­pens when pain ex­ceeds the re­sources you have for cop­ing with pain.

2.Care about your­self

Your men­tal health is equally im­por­tant as your phys­i­cal health. Well-mean­ing peo­ple might ad­vise you to “snap out of it” but don’t wait and hope that your mood might re­solve it­self. It’s noth­ing to feel ashamed about, and you need to ad­vo­cate for your­self.

De­pres­sion is a se­ri­ous ill­ness that re­quires treat­ment so don’t be ashamed to get the nec­es­sary help.

3.Tell some­one

Iden­tify a trusted per­son whom you can go talk to. Con­trary to how you may be feel­ing, there are peo­ple out there who can be with you in this hor­ri­ble time, and will not judge you or try to talk you out of how badly you feel.

Don’t give your­self the ad­di­tional bur­den of try­ing to deal with this alone. Just talk­ing about how you got to where you are re­leases a lot of the pres­sure, and it might be just the ad­di­tional cop­ing re­source you need to re­gain your bal­ance.

4.You can sur­vive this mo­ment

You need to hear that peo­ple do get through this — even peo­ple who feel as badly as you’re feel­ing now. Although it might seem as if your pain and un­hap­pi­ness will never end, it’s im­por­tant to re­alise that crises are usu­ally tem­po­rary.

So­lu­tions are of­ten found, feel­ings change, un­ex­pected pos­i­tive events oc­cur.

Re­mem­ber, sui­cide is a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to a tem­po­rary prob­lem. Give your­self the time nec­es­sary for things to change and the pain to sub­side.

De­pres­sion is real. And in to­day’s world, the feel­ing of dis­con­nect and iso­la­tion is more preva­lent than ever. The need for con­nec­tion and mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships is never more keenly felt than the present.

To those of us who can, we must reach out. To those who strug­gle, we must also do the same. Hav­ing healthy re­la­tion­ships not only helps to al­le­vi­ate de­pres­sion but also helps to pre­vent its re­cur­rence.

Iso­la­tion, how­ever, makes one more vul­ner­a­ble to men­tal and phys­i­cal ill­ness.

As we move to­wards des­tig­ma­tis­ing the myths and fal­la­cies around de­pres­sion and other re­lated men­tal ill­ness, may we con­stantly re­main vig­i­lant in our com­pas­sion and never pre­sume to know the depth of in­ter­nal bat­tles be­ing waged in the minds and emo­tions of oth­ers.

elena@nst.com.my

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