The Thing About Depression Is That We May Never Know When Someone Is Suffering

by Karan Singh

I am not depressed. Or at least, I do not think I am depressed. One thing I do know, however, is that I have my down moments and every now and then, an optimistic thought or idea catches my eye and brings me back to the contagious notion of positive thought.

I'm no psychiatrist, but eventually I will become one. Between then and now, what I am discovering is this forbidden truth that depression is real. It’s happening all around us, as well as within us.

It is crazy, I know, but so is the fact that more than 60 percent of the people who suffer from depression do not get treatment. There are close to 120 million people around the world who suffer from depression.

Depression is often associated with obesity, heart disease, strokes, sleep disorders and most importantly, lack of awareness. Our bodies have mood-related chemicals that rely on certain other chemicals to break them down. Depression leaves us with low levels of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine.

Picture getting a new car with no tires, no engine and no power.

It’s unfortunate that a man like Robin Williams, with his illustrious and influential career, will be associated with suicide and depression. We, as humans, have the power to feel and express emotion unlike most other creatures.

When someone falls into a hole, so to speak, it can be extremely difficult to re-emerge. With all of the optimism around us every day through technology, we have somewhat saturated ourselves in developing the fine line between optimism and true positivity.

It's trying to fill the hole. It's fear... You're kind of going, 'What am I doing in my career? ... Where do you go next?' — Robin Williams

There is no pride parade for those suffering from depression — heck, there's not even really a cure, technically speaking. Robin Williams may have coped with the disease by making countless people around the world smile and laugh, but the pain does not subside.

We look up to many celebrities who suffer from depression, and we should. We look up to these people because what we see is the glamour and the glitz. We forget what is left backstage.

This is hardly the first time we have heard the word "depression" associated with comics. But, let’s name some people we may recognize, who also suffer from some form of depression.

Entertainers like Christian Bale, Jim Carrey, Halle Berry, Ellen DeGeneres, Larry David, Johnny Carson, Lupe Fiasco, Alicia Keys and Billy Joel to writers like Alan Alda, William Faulkner, Stephen King and J.D. Salinger all suffer.

The list goes on and on, but should we really be surprised? This list does not even account for the number of people we see daily, in each of our lives, who may be suffering from a form of depression. But, how do we know if this person will commit suicide? Well, truthfully we don’t; we can't.

It’s incredible to think that one word, gesture or action can make or break someone when it comes to such thought.

Have you ever wondered if your angry tirade at the coffee shop or aggressive driving or even just generally rude behavior might send someone over the edge? Or the possibility that a smile, hug, or kind word or two could be that one push a person may need to overcome his or her inner obstacles of depression?

Considering everything, is it unfair to call someone selfish if he or she committed or attempted suicide? Well, in most cases, people aren't thinking about themselves when they decide to take their own lives. Psychologist Thomas Joiner explains,

What the suicidal person is thinking at the time is actually quite different from selfishness. Their idea is along the lines of, my death will be worth more than my life to others. Now, if you ponder that sentiment, that’s not selfish at all. In fact, if anything it’s the opposite. It is very selfless.

Fox News’ Thomas Shepard had a different perspective. In a recent news segment, Shepard showed a clip of Robin Williams talking about the beauty in his life: his children. After the clip, Shepard weighed in and said,

It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they are in their mid-20s, and they are inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known, and yet something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.

We have to get away from this idea that a disease or illness is limited to just physical matter. If a friend is coming out of surgery, we wish him or her well and say get well soon. However, when it comes to mental illness, there is a stigma attached. A disease is a disease.

I know, firsthand, that it is not just a feeling that we have from time to time because I dealt with it through the experiences of my family and friends. However, with the right support, environment and willpower, I've seen those close to me push down the barriers and heal through their own strengths.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, alcohol and substance abuse or is suicidal, please seek help.

Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Photo Courtesy: Fanpop