Today, an estimated 322 million people around the world live with depression, the majority in non-western nations. Its the leading disability worldwide, and people die of it every day. Nonetheless, depression is treated as though it doesn’t exist, or it is a western middle class thing.
“When it comes to mental health, we are all developing countries”
I had always being tough, skin fashioned out of reinforced steel. When my dad died, I had no reaction, nothing. I simply went off to NYSC camp 5 days later and well, was never sad. During the burial vigil I finally broke down and cried; the bitterest 90 minutes of my life. All I could think about was: ‘daddy why?’. Next day, I was good though, back to being able to make and enjoy jokes.
Fast forward nine months, the steel armor started to crack. I was faced with bringing my siblings and mom out of grief as well as thinking up solutions to different issues. Everyone relied on me, and looked to my strength till one night I quietly exhaled: ‘dah!’. Being tough was exhausting, I needed to talk with someone. But the only one I knew I could talk with was dead. I fell to analyzing everything, then the thoughts became circular. Every stream of thought contained a reason why everything had fallen apart, there didn’t seem to be any solution anywhere. It was hopeless, I was depressed.
“Being tough was exhausting, I needed to talk with someone.”
Depression is so exhausting, it takes up so much of your time and energy, and silence about it makes the depression worse. The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me steadily. I could still make jokes and laugh, but there simply was no energy or interest in fixing anything. Of course it didn’t help that my dad died of a brain hemorrhage related to stress. He had being depressed for a long time and didn’t talk to anyone about it.
Depression is a particularly dangerous illness, as it can open up the way to other mental illnesses such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), drug dependence, anxiety disorder and social phobia, not to mention the accompanying lack of vitality makes for an unproductive demographic.
So how can depression be tackled? Like any other illness, it can be a chemical cure. But depression is also an illness of how one feels. Here talking about the depression truly helps. In Harare, an exciting new form of therapy is being carried out to help combat depression dubbed The Friendship Bench.
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, or refute as alien. We all have that sibling, friend or even parent quietly trying to be tough through a hard time. All they need most times is to be able to talk about their feelings to someone who can empathize.