What is the point of death? Theist and Atheists differ on the answer from the perspective of the dead person. It must be cherished then that they both agree that death’s significance to others is to trigger introspection and collective questions whose answers may change the course of history for individuals or even communities; answers ranging from worldly achievements to preparedness for the hereafter. History, both your family’s and those studied by scholars, are rich with examples.
I just received news that someone, a friend of people close to me, whom I might or might not have met, committed suicide yesterday. This post is not to give details of the very unfortunate event, for that may invoke empathy, condolence remarks, or tragic entertainment (after all people pay to watch tragedies since the time of Shakespeare). This post is to highlight the tragic event by underplaying the identity of the victim because it is enough that he/she is a friend of people close to me, whom I might or might not have met. That said, my deep condolence to the family and acquaintances of the victim.
The circumstances of the event, as I heard it, suggests depression has played a significant part in the turn out. This is the question that this death has challenged us with: How are we dealing with depression? Another question ought to have preceded, which is: what is Depression; a mood or a disease? In the sixties (or seventies), psychologists thought that mood and psychological diseases were the same, and so flourished the era of mood controlling drugs; which culminated in Designer Drugs that are fashionable today. In the last decade (or so) this point of view is being adjusted as disconcerting statistics stare at people (mostly Americans) revealing the startling percentage of children and adults on mood controlling drugs. Therefore the last decade saw the re-acceptance of some “psychological diseases” as “regular human emotions”. The result of this adjustment spurred another radical branch which not only believes depression is a disease, but preaches that depression is a disease! Like any preacher of Gospel, they are also convinced that their Gospel is the truth, and in it is the salvation of humanity from the Hell of depression.
From where I stand, depression is real. It cannot be ignored. People of the past interacted with depression using myths and superstitions; this persists even today. Some people of today react to depression by taking drugs; both narcotic and Designer Drugs. Some psychologists examine depression until depression fails. The spiritually inclined explain depression as the effect of distancing oneself from God. Some of the religiously inclined explain depression with fatalism; which is surprisingly an efficient way to recover from depression. All these are options that could be argued as “tried and tested”, in so far as their success is measured by the seizure of depression even if momentarily. That raises the question of whether depression is simply a symptom of internal imbalance in an individual, which all the above make disappear. Imbalance of the chemical, the psychological or the spiritual?
Back to the question. How are we dealing with depression? Whatever the answer is, it can’t be working since it has lead to suicide. Deaths ought not to be the yardstick for measuring the effects of depression, but death is not only a poignant questioner, it is a distracting answer. How are we dealing with depression? Are we supposed to deal with depression, or is it supposed to deal with us gracefully? There is no right answer for the wrong question.
This question that is so important, death itself was made the messenger. A message so important you can’t kill the messenger even if you wanted to. As we attempt to answer this question, and pave the direction for our future, I implore that we be weary of taking the path of depression as a disease resulting from chemical imbalance. Frankly I would like us to do away with the drugs option if possible because we know most drugs treat symptoms more than they treat diseases (some drugs are said to only keep you comfortable until your body treats/heals itself).
Small Pox was eradicated with evangelic zeal. Polio remains a challenge due to counter religious zeal. Should preachers of depression as a disease succeed, would that lead to the Death of Depression?
Who is susceptible to depression? In a society rife with drug abuse and overflowing with faith in the gods of consumerism, it could be anyone. Referring to the case of death that prompted me to write, the victim could be someone you know, a friend of people close to you, whom you might or might not have met.