In my previous post I spoke about my situation and how it had led to the beginnings of a serious case of depression and how I had decided to speak to my partner about it – on the phone as he is in India – thousands of miles away from the UK where I am currently.
I warned him that I could feel I was slipping into depression and asked for his help and support in advance and warned him that I may not be my usual self over the coming weeks and to bear with me.
His reaction was mixed. He was understanding and sweet and supportive on one hand but in the other dismissed the seriousness of the illness. I read an article on ‘Things not to say to a depressed person’ http://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/ and he managed about half of them – all with the best of intentions bless him, but he couldn’t have got it more wildly wrong what to say.
The thing that stuck in my mind was that he considered depression ‘a first world problem.’ It is no surprise – he walks past people in the street in utter poverty sleeping on the road, missing limbs, including little children on an everyday basis. How could his girlfriend possibly be as unhappy as them? He tried to make me feel better but it made me feel worse. He reacted naturally and to the best of his ability but I found myself feeling resentful that he didn’t understand what I was going through. I could sense him becoming angry and frustrated and it made me fear for how my illness would affect our relationship.
I got to thinking that this attitude towards depression could be more than just a lack of experience or insight into the subject, but a cultural issue. I did some research and it turns out that depression is indeed a taboo subject in Indian society. India has one of the fastest rising rates of depression in the world, yet there is a shocking lack of healthcare professionals who are equipped to treat the problem. Mental issues are widely attributed to being ‘madness’ or ‘psycho’ and not considered ‘illnesses.’ This is especially true in the lower middle and working classes.
I made a promise to myself that when I am better and have returned to India, I will volunteer as a mentor to give help to people there suffering from depression and anxiety and to write more on the subject to help raise awareness.
Here are some articles on the subject of depression in India: