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Describing her experience of depression as a “struggle,” Deepika Padukone reminds us that depression is not a choice.
Deepika Padukone’s interview in the August 2019 issue of Vogue is a candid account of her life with depression. Talking about how it felt for her to be suffering from depression at a time that she was delivering back to back hits, she says, “Every second was a struggle. I felt exhausted the whole time.”
She adds, “People confuse it with being a bit sad. A male star said recently that he didn’t have the luxury to be depressed. As if depression is a choice!” Interestingly, though she didn’t name the ‘male star’, a quick google search revealed that the actor she is talking about is Salman Khan, who in an earlier interview said, “I see a lot of people going on vacations, but I cannot afford that luxury of taking a vacation. I see a lot of people getting depressed and emotional, but I can’t afford that luxury of being depressed or sad or emotional because no matter what I am going through, it works against me.”
Not unsurprising, considering that Salman Khan isn’t exactly ‘Mr Sensitive’. However, his flippant and socially irresponsible comment is indicative of how many people think about mental health.
Like Deepika points out, depression is no vacation. It is defined by mentalhealth.gov (a US government website) as “a serious medical illness that involves the brain,” with symptoms and feelings that “persist and interfere with your everyday life,” including eating or sleeping too much or too little; isolating oneself from people and pulling away from usual activities; having low or no energy; feeling numb or like nothing matters; feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried or scared; and thinking of harming yourself or others. It is a lot more debilitating than feeling a bit sad or down.
The causes of depression are varied, including genetic, environmental, psychological, and biochemical factors and the problem, even with more and more available treatments is only growing.
Approximately there are 56 million people (4.5% of population in 2015) suffering from depression in India, according to a report by the WHO. Unfortunately, in India, even as there is increased awareness about mental health problems, including depression, there is also increased stigma.
In a survey conducted by Deepika Padukone’s The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), respondents from higher socio-economic backgrounds who were educated and more aware of mental health concerns, were also more likely to stigmatize and be afraid of those with mental health illnesses. 60% of the respondents believed that “One of the main causes of mental illness is lack of self-discipline and willpower,” and 46% believed that, “One should keep safe a distance from someone who is depressed.” A truly sad state of affairs!
A review, by a team of 28 global experts, published in the Lancet medical journal, warned against a worldwide ‘mental health crisis’ and suggested six ways to tackle the same, including, “scaling up mental health disorders as an integrated, essential component of universal health coverage; addressing barriers and threats to mental health treatment; protecting public policies that target mental health; embracing new opportunities in technology; investing more in treatments; and investing more in research.”
On a personal level, we can make a difference by offering our unconditional love and support to friends of family suffering from depression and by watching out for red flags that may indicate that they are struggling. As Deepika points out in her interview, it was her mother who noticed her symptoms and encouraged her to seek help.
Depression is not a ‘choice’, and it thrives in silence and ignorance. So, have a conversation with your loved ones about what you can do to help.
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