Medical subjects are not at all suitable for public forum discussions as we all are born hypochondriacs, but the #LetsTalk depression has petrified me enough to take that risk.
To start with, depression is not a disease, it is a symptom of various mental issues. As it is an extenuated form of normal feeling of sadness, it is impossible to know where it begins. Only (simplistic) way to describe it is as a pathological sadness-without-reason caused by imbalance in brain chemistry.
The big problem is, concluding what has caused sadness is a very tricky job as human mind is mostly opaque even to its owner.
As we live in a society that we can’t control, we all have underlying emotional angst that we are not aware of. This is complicated further as ideas like ageing, death and illness, when contemplated, cause existential angst to all of us. Hence, sadness that a person is feeling could be for an underlying reason that even he may not be conscious of. So, a conclusive diagnosis is extremely difficult.
Reality is, medical science has little idea about what is actually happening in brain in even most recognisable form of depression, i.e. major or clinical depression.
This uncertainty is not limited to the disease, as even the cures offered by medical science are also working on our rudimentary knowledge about depression’s chemical pathology in brain. Antidepressants are based on “balancing” neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine; but we have little idea about how they actually work.
So, even experts know too little about this extremely complex phenomenon to talk about it with confidence.
In such a situation, what is the #LetsTalk about?
If it is about depression, it has potential to be a disaster. What makes it really dangerous is that our ignorance can plant a seed of fear in someone’s mid that can actually turn into a serious life-ruining problem. Talking about depression is best left to highly qualified professionals.
But there is a need of #LetsTalk, and that is about sadness. We may or may not be depressed, but many of us are certainly sad.
The #LetsTalk campaign needs a complete reorientation. Depression-talk is not suitable for general consumption, while sadness-talk is dire need of modern times.
Most of natural sadness emerges from sense of being lonely and uncared-for. So, the modern depression plague is a result to demise of caring conversations between humans who are too busy pursuing gratification to care to talk with fellow human beings. Over time, this sadness can overwhelm the mind and send it down the slippery path of pathological sadness.
This life style has made all of us vulnerable, so a seed of doubt about having depression can easily get planted in our minds. And, once planted, if it is watered by are-you-depressed talk by laypeople around us, we may end up making the mistake of self-diagnosis and get caught into the web of antidepressant consumption like the western society.
Let us understand that depression is completely different than AIDS or cancer, as it has a horrible power of self-forming and snowballing. And once that process starts, it is very difficult to differentiate the real from the imaginary. So it’s awareness is a double-edged sword that can’t be handed out to masses.
So, let’s avoid the D-word and shift to talking to the dear ones who are sad, and not about you-could-be-depressed-let’s-see-a-doctor, but about how much we love them.
If they are clinically depressed or just sad, show of love and caring would help in either case. But, discussing depression to them when they are just sad, you can be pushing them over the edge, and down into the a life in hell.