Depression: Remembering the collective murder of Taiwo.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
As a young Nigerian, I remember being regaled by tales of how Nigerians are "the happiest people on earth". We were touted to "laugh through pain", and prided ourselves in not taking life too seriously. Thus, we learnt to scoff at stories of people said to be suffering depression; we
called call it an 'oyinbo' sickness, and sneer at the pain
with which it is adorned.
I have since come to learn one truth: We (Nigerians) are not the happiest people on earth. The Danes are, and have been among the happiest for a while (according to the World Happiness Report published by the United Nations)
And why not? At the very least, they have uninterrupted power supply, and dedicated leaders. Not a bunch of ‘adults’, jumping from political party to political party, without an iota of the concept of a common political ideology, or an understanding of the fact that they are servants, with great expectations to provide value to the people they serve.
But I digress. (Forgive me)
So yes, we may cloak our collective and individual pain in witty hashtags and catchy memes, laced up in 'laughter'. It does not make us happy. It only makes us good actors, who have perfected the art of self-denial, such that we can hardly differentiate between reality and illusion anymore.
More people than we could ever imagine who live in our society ARE living with some silent, life-threatening burden. (Well, other than the burden of poverty, which a majority of the populace have been compelled to wear, as their own shadow)
Nigerian, hear this: Depression lives with us. It is real, breathes and walks among us. A silent, but potent killer.
All thanks to scientific/technological advancements and proliferation of knowledge by Internet, we now have a name to "that thing" that would formerly cause us to label a victim as "weird", or "ogbanje".
It is Depression.
Depression may sometimes be used colloquially to represent a general state of sadness, which is of normal occurrence to every human. For example, "I just broke my favorite lipstick. I am 'depressed'". No you are not, not really. You are just sad, which is rather normal for every human to feel from time to time.
Depression in its real form is that uncanny demon, which slowly creeps up on one, stealing one's sense of direction or purpose, self-worth, and (eventually), snuffs one’s urge for continued living.
It is not sudden... it seeps in gradually. Sometimes, it is inherited as a gene. In most cases, it is planted by some traumatic childhood experience, which is so fundamentally harmful to the child’s mind that it jeopardizes their socio-mental ability to cope with the vicissitudes of life as an adult, at which point the mind may 'snap' under the weight of life’s troubles, and the traits become apparent. Some of these traits include feelings of helplessness, hopelessness & dread, unidentifiable anxiety, bursting into tears for no apparent reason, sudden withdrawal from people, deep/crushing sadness and inability to function normally with others.
Until it is dealt with, depression never really goes away.
From time to time, it may be triggered by a myriad of events: from as mundane as being passed over in a promotion, to as grave as the loss of a loved one. While it may be suppressed, untreated depression rears its ugly head intermittently, and the unfortunate victim finds herself/himself running around in circles.
Sadly, our society is not a very kind one. We are not a very sensitive people. Rather than inquire as the possible personal battles one who exhibits such traits may be experiencing, and seek to provide help, we brush it off, with a wave of the hand; telling them to "pray it away". Many times, we stigmatize such depressed persons, brandishing them as "mad", thereby making them afraid to speak up and speak out for the fear of the stigma. Worst still, we jeer at them, for being apparently depressed.
Like Taiwo, whose Facebook posts showed he was teetering on the brink of life and death, being drawn to the latter by depression. His Facebook posts said it all. But in our usual fashion, we mocked him. We made fun of his pain. We laughed at him. It was 'funny'.
Till he died, and it stopped being funny.
This is not to crucify the fun-makers: they are us all. For each time you sneered at a similar victim, you contributed to Taiwo's death, by supporting the intolerance to victims of depression. For each time you sneer at a victim of depression, you murder Taiwo all over. Again, and again.
If you find someone exhibiting traits of depression, set aside your personal prejudices and convictions, cast in stone by our collective crude upbringing. Spare a moment; sit with them.
Listen. That may be all they need.
Better still, help them get professional help via counseling with trained Counselors and/or Medical Professionals.
And if you reading this have these feelings of dread, hopelessness, have lost the urge to continue living due to depression, know that:
1. Depression is not Madness. You are not Mad: ‘Madness’ is schizophrenia, which is complete loss of perception of reality, coupled with an unfounded and sustained feeling of persecution, and having visual, auditory and/or olfactory Hallucinations.
While chronic depression may cause exhibition of some similarities with schizophrenia, it is not schizophrenia, or madness.
Even if you suffered schizophrenia (which you do not), you CAN be helped. There are people living with schizophrenia who receive treatment and function normally. In sane countries, it is no cause for stigma.
2. There is nothing to be ashamed of: There is no shame in being depressed, or suffering depression. It may be your genes. It may be trauma caused by what you went through as a child. You have not offended the gods, nor are you cursed. A lot of wealthy and successful people live with or have lived with depression. So there is NO stigma to Depression.
3. Depression is an ailment. Like Cancer. Or Malaria: What do people do when they have Malaria? They seek treatment. They do not just stay indoors and hide away the illness. They do not just go from prayer house to prayer house to pray away the Cancer.
When people have physical ailments, they seek treatment. Same should apply for ailments of the mind, of which Depression is one. Even while you pray, seek treatment. Help is possible.
4. You are not alone: Someone understands; a lot of people do actually. You are not the first to go through depression; it is not likely that you will be the last. A lot of people (much more than you could imagine) are living with depression. And living normal lives. All that is required of you is to talk to someone, at the very least, a medical doctor.
You will be fine.
5. Be careful of the Internet: Sometimes, a good thing can be a bad thing. If you type in side-effect of paracetamol, you would almost have a heart-attack after you are done reading. Same thing applies in depression, be careful what you read.
There are some online resources that are very good, like www.helpguide.org. Ultimately, it is better you got your information face-to-face from a professional.
6. It is not that bad: Depression has a way of twisting reality, and pushing everything to look its worst possible.
Rationality would let you know it is not that bad, but depression would seek to make everything a lost case.
You will be fine again. You will love laughter once more, love your loved ones again. You will yet again get to feel and enjoy the twang in an agbalumo, and laugh fear in the face.
You. Will. Be. FINE.
We failed you.
We did not just fail you; we failed humanity, and the reason for our existence.
Take solace in knowing this: that even in death, you triumph still.
Your life was not worthless. Your death was not futile.
Our eyes have been opened to your reality, which you sought to show us.
Others shall be saved, because of you.
Note: The information provided in this post was obtained largely from informal personal experiences of the author via interaction with others, first-hand knowledge and from research. For more formal information on depression, you may visit www.helpguide.org (A helpline is also provided)
While MMBM does not (yet) have depression counseling facilities, healthcare providers nationwide can assist in providing help or referrals to appropriate facilities. Some organisations – such as Family Ministries International, Abuja - have trained health professionals who provide counseling, and can equally make appropriate recommendations for help to persons living outside the area. There is also the Nigeria Suicide Prevention Initiative, with hotlines 08062106493 and 08092106493.
Help is just a call or text away.
Help is just a call or text away.
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