I found myself in a secluded coffee shop, trying to find some peace and serenity. As I sipped on my chai latte, I couldn’t help eavesdropping on a conversation between three trendy, young professionals. The blonde lifted her cup and growled, “Ugh! I can’t understand! How could he kill himself—I mean he’s like worth millions of dollars. Where’s all that money gonna go?” The brunette shook her head and replied, “Well, some of these celebrities have too much money and don’t know what to do with themselves.” Their bohemian dressed girlfriend chimed in, “I guess money doesn’t buy happiness.” The girls were stuck on the idea of how Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington was cowardly to take his own life.
Twenty-four hours before, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Everyone understood the tragedy of his battle, but when the 41-year-old lead singer of Linkin Park committed suicide, most sympathy went out the door. I’m not normalizing suicide or discrediting the pain a cancer patient faces every day. I’m only making a point to show how uninformed—no, how uneducated our society is about dealing with depression. Today’s young professionals know everything about Kim Kardashian’s favorite lip gloss and all the details of their friends’ hook-ups, but have no idea how painful and severe depression side effects are. Many celebrities have spoken out and raised awareness, but we still choose to turn a blind eye and pretend depression isn’t a big deal and if anything, a misdiagnosis.
I’ve come to realize there are several reasons why people are so harsh and judgmental when it comes to depression. First, they’ve never dealt with depression. Second, they don’t understand the pain of depression. Third, there’s a social stigma involved. But most of all, people can’t see depression because there are no physical side effects. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they lose their hair, they drop pounds, and their skin pigment changes—their pain physically shows. When someone has an injury, they end up with stitches or a cast. But there are no physical bruises or bleeding with depression. The majority of people with depression walk around masking their pain.
Depression side effects can vary from mild to severe feelings of sadness and worthlessness. When you’re depressed you live in slow motion. Minutes turn into hours, hours turn into days, and days turn into years. Imagine waking up every day and the only thing you feel is a heavy knot slowly take over your body, as you dreadfully watch happiness fade away from your reality. You lose interest in activities because you’re hollow. You might binge eat to fill the emptiness or you might not have an appetite. You isolate yourself from your family and friends. You find a lonely comfort zone where you are lost in your painful thoughts. Finally, someone knocks at your door, only to scream at you, “What’s wrong with you?”
Then you wish you had cancer because someone would understand your pain. Their lack of support doesn’t comfort you. Now you’re feeling guilty and worse. How are you able to concentrate? How are you able to make decisions? There’s a small part of you that have a better day, but you're useless so what’s the point? There are only two roads this pain may take you: to seek help or kill yourself.
We would never tell a cancer patient, “get it together” or “you’re acting so weak today.” So why is society telling someone with depression that? Why do we lack empathy for someone who is struggling with a mental illness?
Chester Bennington was found dead at his California estate. He had hung himself. Over the years, Bennington had spoken candidly about depression, addiction, and rape. And, if we had listened close enough to his lyrics we could have heard the depth of his pain. His soothing voice and authentic music aided his audience sort through their problems. How seriously did we think his pain was? After all, the handsome star had sold over 30 million albums worldwide, scored countless Grammys, and in the eyes of the society he had all the money, so why would he have depression?
The American Psychiatric Association has dedicated thirty-three pages to sub-categorize various types of depressive disorders. According to a new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, depression in children appeared as early as age 11. The study also concluded that 13.6 percent of boys and an alarming rate of 36.1 percent of girls have been or are depressed by the time they are 17, a significant increase from previous estimates. Therefore, depression today is on the rise and approximately 15 million American adults are struggling with some diagnostic depression.
If a friend or family member suffers from depression, your support and encouragement can play an important role in their recovery. Be there for them, try to make small gestures, learn about depression, avoid making comparisons, and be patient. Don’t criticize them, don’t minimize their pain, don’t offer advice, and most of all avoid the tough-love approach.
Here are some resources for suicide:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
Crisis Text Line, the free, nationwide, 24/7 text message service for people in crisis, is here to support. For support in the United States, text HELLO to 741741 or message at facebook.com/CrisisTextLine.
For support outside the United States, find resources at http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html