Depression: The Silent Killer
[ TRIGGER WARNING: topics in discussion may be sensitive to some readers ]
DISCLAIMER: the content contained in this post is from my own experiences, and for informational purposes only. If you think that you, or someone you know, may have depression or any form of mental illness, contact a professional. If you, or someone you know, is at risk for suicide or other harm or injury, please call 911 or seek professional help immediately.
This post is unlike any other I have written thus far; it contains sensitive subjects, but it needs to be shared. Two recent events prompted me to write this: 1) Dan Harmon's (Community, Rick and Morty) response to a fan's question on how to deal with depression, and 2) k-pop idol Kim Jonghyun's (SHINee) untimely death, caused by suicide. Now, I don't have any personal experience with depression, but some of my closest friends do. So I took the liberty to do a Mental Health First Aid training course this past spring (READ: #GETLOUD: Mental Health First Aid), and all I can say is HIGHLY RECOMMEND! It really helps put things into perspective, and helps you understand what sufferers are going through. But most importantly, it teaches you how to be an empathetic and effective support for an individual suffering from mental illness. If you want more information, read the above article, or please contact me - I would be happy to share resources with you.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2016), "depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks." Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 300 million people of all ages (World Health Organization, 2017), and mental illnesses are on a rise. Statistics show that 1 in 3 Canadians will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2013).
Often, we don't know how to support a loved one with depression, yet that support is crucial to helping them with their battle: validating their feelings and thoughts, letting them know that they are cared for and loved, being there to just simply listen, and gently encouraging them to get help from a professional. Despite the advancements in mental health advocacy, there is still some stigma attached to counselling, psychotherapy, or any related field. There is nothing wrong with seeking help, whether it be from a trained, accredited professional or a friend/family member; it doesn't deem you as weak, insufficient, or helpless. Dan Harmon recently had something to say about this:
@chojuroh: "@danharmon do you have advice for dealing with depression"
For One: Admit and accept that it's happening. Awareness is everything. We put ourselves under so much pressure to feel good. It's okay to feel bad. It might be something you're good at! Communicate it. DO NOT KEEP IT SECRET. Own it. Like a hat or jacket. Your feelings are real.
Two: try to remind yourself, over and over, that feelings are real but they aren't reality. Example: you can feel like life means nothing. True feeling. Important feeling. TRUE that you feel it, BUT...whether life has meaning? Not up to us. Facts and feelings: equal but different
The most important thing I can say to you is please don't deal with it alone. There is an incredible, miraculous magic to pushing your feelings out. Even writing "I want to die" on a piece of paper and burning it will feel better than thinking about it alone. Output is magical.
Dark thoughts will echo off the walls of your skull, they will distort and magnify. When you open your mouth (or an anonymous journal or blog or sketchpad), these thoughts go out. They'll be back but you gotta get em OUT. Vent them, Tap them. I know you don't want to but try it.
This webpage here is a good resource on how to help a loved one with depression, while also taking care of your own mental health in the process.
Now, let's go back to that quote by Jung at the beginning of this post: "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. Ignite a light in yourself, and be a light to yourself so that you can spread it amongst every person you encounter. Be conscious of the world, of other people, and of yourself.
This takes me to the second part of today's post.
A few days ago, I woke up to the news that Kim Jonghyun of SHINee had passed away from suicide just hours ago, in South Korea. SHINee has been my favourite k-pop group since Grade 9 (so what, like 8 years ago?) and is one of the only k-pop groups that I still follow, so I was in complete shock and utter disbelief. Throughout the next couple days, it really pained me to read about his death, and how his fans and friends were reacting to the tragedy. Jonghyun's final letter (with the consent of his family) circulated the Internet, and it was a very difficult thing to process, because this hard-working, supportive, loving, and seemingly happy man was hiding so much struggle and pain. And the fact that the Korean entertainment industry is so corrupt, as is the general stigma around mental health in the country, but I'm not going to go into that. I pray that through these untimely deaths of people in the Korean entertainment industry, that something changes.
Through reading his labelmates' and friends' messages to Jonghyun following his passing, it is evident that they all feel regret for not talking to him more about his personal life, not being the support when he needed them the most. Sometimes - more often than not - people will not explicitly state that they are depressed, or that they need help and support from loved ones. Sometimes, you need to be the one to act first. Sometimes, the smallest act of kindness and reaching out can pull them back from the deep end, just a little. With all those thoughts in mind, I tweeted something the other day, and I will leave it at that:
[TRIGGER WARNING] a member of my favourite band during my teenage years passed away yesterday from suicide. he had severe depression, but not many knew. when he tried to reach out, he felt like nobody was listening. he blamed himself completely. he always wore a bright smile.
depression is a silent killer. somebody may appear to be positive and happy, but inside, something is eating them away. it's not something one can simply snap out of. it's not something one can understand, unless they too have suffered by the same hand.
what they need is empathy, kindness, support, somebody to stick with them through all the tough times. it may not be the absolute cure, but it can guide them in the right direction.
it is imperative we treat everybody with kindness, respect, understanding, and love. reach out to others with no judgment. let them know that someone cares, and that they are never alone. just one loving person is all it takes to save a dear life. be that person, be that support.
give love & accept the love.
Canadian crisis hotlines:
- National: 1-800-668-6868 (Kids Help Phone) - not just for kids & youths, by the way!
- British Columbia: 1-800-784-2433 (Crisis Centre)
- Alberta: 403-266-4357 (Distress Centre)
- Saskatchewan: 306-757-0127 (Mobile Crisis Services)
- Manitoba: 1-877-435-7170 (Manitoba Suicide Line)
- Ontario: 1-866-531-2600 (Ontario Mental Health Helpline)
- Quebec: 1-866-277-3553 (Centre de Prevention de Suicide de Quebec)
- New Brunswick: 1-800-667-5005 (Chimo Helpline)
- Nova Scotia: 1-888-429-8167 (Nova Scotia Health Authority)
- Prince Edward Island: 1-800-218-2885 (The Island Helpline)
- Newfoundland & Labrador: 1-888-737-4668 (Mental Health Crisis Centre)
- Yukon: 1-844-533-3030 (Yukon Distress & Support Line)
- Northwest Territories: 867-767-9061 (Northwest Territories Help Line)
- Nunavut: 1-800-265-3333 (Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line)