“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always” — a powerful quote from Robin Williams, a star who lost his battle some time ago. However, what he said is true today, more than ever.
This year has been tough. Having us all go through a collective trauma, collective loss — for some that loss has been more personal, more intense than others. And that is taking a toll on people’s mental well being. Each year, several people are lost to depression, to loneliness. The Centre for Suicide Prevention equates the number of people dying as a result of suicides each year in Canada, to a jumbo jet 747 crashing and killing everyone on board every single month of the year. That is almost 605 deaths per month.
To add to these deaths, experts are saying that the pandemic could trigger more suicides. In fact, a study conducted and co-authored by the University of Toronto psychiatry professor Roger McIntyre, has stated that the pandemic, the isolation and the unemployment, could result in as many as 2,100 more suicides than usual in each year, for this and the next year in Canada.
The recent celebrity deaths however, show an even darker face of depression.
On June 9, Jas Waters, the writer for a popular NBC show This Is Us, died at the age of 39 after committing suicide. Days later, another celebrity, this time in Bollywood, Sushant Singh Rajput, died at the age of 34, after committing suicide. And these are celebrity suicides; of people who are in the public spotlight constantly, of people, whom we imagine have everything, all the luxuries in the world, and yet find themselves alone, vulnerable and unhappy.
The statistics, together with the reality of what is happening around us then definitely suggests that wealth, prosperity, success, happiness, fame are not always related to depression.
Pain, is pain, is pain. It is not a competition. You are not more depressed than him, your depression is not more authentic than hers. There is no right or wrong reason for depression, and sometimes, there is no visible reason for depression and yet it still exists. I have seen people say things like “You have everything, what is making you so sad?” “You over-think” “Go out, talk to people, exercise” “God helps those who helps themselves so start working on yourself and you will be better”. I have also heard of people who stigmatize suicide and mental health. If someone is coming to you for help, someone is opening up to you, shutting them down, not validating their feelings, telling them what they are feeling is wrong or unacceptable, is just not okay.
Judgments, making people feel guilty for their feelings of depression, or saying “but this is not the answer, suck it up, you will be fine” is not the answer. What will actually help is checking in on people regularly, checking in on loved ones and strangers, validating people’s feelings, not dismissing, not judging and most importantly listening. In all this chaos, where we ourselves are struggling, it is important to check in with our loved ones and important to reach out.
So from today, make your mental health a priority and reach out to someone when you don’t feel okay. Remember, you might be facing battles unknown but you don’t have to fight them alone.
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