My views on this article have changed with time, the article is mostly incoherent and poorly written but I refuse to edit it because this is what makes it authentic.
After the untimely tragic death of the South African rapper HHP, there has been a renewed interest in the conversation about depression. We all know that the conversation won’t last a week but okay, let us utilize this educatunity to spread awareness about depression. The problem with conversations around hype time is that there is a lot of unbalanced truths being said and unthought assumptions being hailed. So as a person who might know something about depression, let me add my voice too — I hope it will balance out many things.
The calling of the world is not to speak about or raise awareness about depression, the calling of the world is to actively prevent and treat depression. However, awareness is raised so that we can have more foot soldiers to rely on in combating depression and high suicide rate that comes with it.
What causes depression?
In my view, depression is mostly caused by two things, that is, having a terrible life (Shit Life Syndrome) and chemical imbalances in your brain. Having a terrible life means being in dire circumstances such as poverty, unhealthy relations, poor family dynamics and having no sense of purpose or meaning. For example, if you are a millennial without family or anyone to depend on but yourself to keep the lights on, food on the table and pay yourself for college and you have little or no money, you are likely to get depressed.
Chemical imbalances mean that you can be having a proper home by any standard but your brain still wants to kill you. This is caused by having low happiness producing chemicals in your brain. It is important to understand this before trying to offer advice and remedies to yourself or to anyone with depression. At times your life will be very terrible and you are depressed but your brain is okay in terms of chemical balances, it will only be reflecting your state. At times your life will be okay but your brain will be having terrible chemical balances. And at times the universe can outdo itself and you have both a terrible life and a terrible brain.
Why #CheckOnYourFriends Doesn’t Work?
In the past months, people have started to use the phrase “Check on your [strong] friends”. The idea is that you should check on your people to avoid and prevent depression and suicide. I have always vehemently hated that phrase (and apparently most people living with depression hate it too). Beyond its obvious blatant virtue signalling, the phrase doesn’t communicate much on what to do in checking up on your friends. It doesn’t say because “Check on your friends” simply doesn’t work. Let me help you understand this: try texting or calling a friend you last spoke to in a month or week and ask them “How are you?” and let’s see if they will tell you anything beyond “I’m good”. To prevent depression and suicide, we can’t depend on a one-time check on your friend event, we need a to do a whole lot more!
Why intervention is always late?
The problem we have in the society is that we are so keen in fixing the symptoms and results of depression than mitigating it.
People want to help when you are already going through a tough time and they ask you to talk about it. That’s literally the one time you don’t want to talk about your issues. Asking for a suicidal person to have a conversation with you whilst they are battling their demons seldom works. There are many reasons why late-stage intervention is a poor-quality intervention.
First, by the time you intervene, the person would have developed poor and toxic beliefs about the society, themselves and you. For example, take an orphaned 16-year-old girl who grew up poor and did not have clothes so she couldn’t fit in the society and spent most of the time in her own room without interaction with society (and the only interaction with the world is through the filters of the perfect world of Instagram) to the point of which when she steps outside she starts having anxiety and panic attacks. If this person attempts to commit suicide or is now obviously depressed at 25, and you try to intervene, your intervention will not do much because she won’t relate and what you will be saying will not be true to her world. You will say something like “Hang in there, there is light at the end of the tunnel”. Uhm, no! She has been living like this for 9 years and you expect to convince this person that life will be different in future, how do you know that? So any late intervention will be too late to be meaningful.
Also, interventions are usually one-time or during crisis time. When someone tweets or vocalises that they are battling with depression, their inboxes will be flooded by messages of hope and love. However, that immediately stops when the hype is over and the person is back where they started, 9 years of battling depression, alone.
When should we intervene?
Intervention should be timely and every day, that is, before depression becomes crippling. Contrary to what I said above, I wholeheartedly appreciate every one of you who have intervened in crisis times and you were there for someone, you saved someone’s life. I think more can be done to save more lives. More means intervening earlier than the normal times. When is earlier? I think earlier is now. Treat everyone you meet or interact with on a daily basis as a potentially depressed person and likely need for your help. At times the help you can offer is not being a mean person to people you meet. Below is what “more” constitutes of and ways you can
How should we intervene?
I started this post by hazarding the opinion that depression is mostly caused by having a terrible life. Therefore, I think the first place to start helping is by providing resources for someone to reconfigure and fix their lives. Resources are not always money (even though purposeful money is always welcome), resources are just that, resources. One way you can help is sharing job/scholarship/fellowship opportunities and even helping in terms of applications by buying the broadband data if it is an online application or printing of documents and offering transport money if it’s a physical application. At times resources mean buying someone airtime to stay connected with friends, at times it’s sharing clothing and at times it’s giving someone a book (my favourite). Helping out shouldn’t be always costly, but it should be meaningful.
At times, depressed people are lonely and lonely people are depressed. Therefore, texting all the love, hope and scriptures won’t help. They need to feel around people. You can offer to go to their place to watch a movie with them or invite them over for a movie and buy popcorn and juice or noodles or biscuits or any light meal. They will appreciate it. Also, invite them to join you on braais, parties or even your local church youth meeting where they will interact with new people under your watch and don’t leave them at all times during the meeting.
Also, regularly, on a daily basis talk to them. This will help when someone is going through depression or life event to be able to confide in you because you have developed a rapport. Also, the reason why people can’t talk to people on a daily basis is that the conversation is always small talk. Try texting random things to someone or having an in-depth conversation.
If the person is depressed and clearly it’s not their life that needs attention but their brain; the best way to intervene is to encourage them to consistently take their medication. Contrary to popular belief that many people take anti-depressants. It’s only a few people who usually take the medication without stopping midway. Therefore, if you want to help, encourage them to take medication and make medication cool again.
Lastly, there is nothing as magical as a one-to-one face-to-face conversation. I live for that! I have it on record that I once spoke to one person in-person non-stop till 4 am. A good conversation can help you feel understood, appreciated and alive. It ignites every part of your stimulatable body part (brain mostly). I always argue that the best way to intervene is to have a good old conversation regardless of where you are.
How shouldn’t you intervene?
There are ways you shouldn’t deal with depression. The first one is to try not to use someone’s depression as an opportunity to introduce them to your God. I am a very spiritual person, but I don’t prescribe religion or lack of it as a tool to fight depression. Most of the people who are depressed need people and medication not necessarily God. I feel like someone will misunderstand this so let me end this thought here.
Also, please don’t say unthought assumptions like “it’s all in your head” or any other equivalent nonsense.
Lastly, do not try to threaten friendships or relationships. The most obvious response to depression in Africa is aggression, especially towards suicide attempt. The police in Zimbabwe will literally beat up a corpse of a person who died through suicide by hanging. Also, if one attempts suicide and they survive, they are likely to be beaten and resented by their families than helped. It is a pity to survive suicide.
Why is suicide rational?
I think that suicide is a rational choice that should never be resented or hated. Suicide decision is like sex, there are many recorded instances where it wasn’t thought through but that doesn’t mean the decision itself is irrational. In the movie The Sunset Limited, the professor argues that anyone who uses their mind to think will come to the logical conclusion of suicide. This doesn’t mean I support or condone or encourage people that commit suicide. I think people by all means should strive to beat depression at all costs. However, what I mean is: those who have committed suicide should be given all the respect they deserve in death. They should be treated humanely (not celebrated). There shouldn’t be any taboos and demeaning rituals that exist at their funeral. And society should treat them as cancer victims who succumbed to the disease because I am 100% convinced that if we were in their shoes, we would have committed suicide too because suicide was then the most rational decision to do.
Curing depression: what can you do?
If you are to read this post and you are wondering on what you can do to be able to cope with it. First, you can start by medical intervention to get your life in order. At times depression can be so crippling that you cannot bring yourself to do anything. You can start by taking prescribed anti-depresants to get you to try sort out your life. At times the medical intervention is to restore your chemical balances to start functioning again.
Also, start consuming content that is logotherapeutic than nihilistic. Try to look for content that is leaning towards the idea that the world is meaningful than the idea that the world is meaningless. Because the nihilistic conclusion is to give up yet the meaning and purpose conclusion is to fight more.
Also, get a routine. A routine or timetable helps your life feel like you have a life plan that you are following and that will give you a lot of things to look forwad to.
Lastly, try to be nice to the next person and offer some help. Be the intervener to other people facing depression, that will help you a lot.
Recommendations Of Content To Consume
Viktor Frankle — Man’s Search For Meaning (Book)
Jordan B. Peterson — 12 Rules Of Life (Book)
NF — Therapy Session (Music Album)
Thank you for reading this post! Share the love with others.
Rest In Peace To Kago Moeng, Avicci & HHP ✿❤