A Candle in the Dark: Tackling Depression in Bangladesh

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Adeeb Chowdhury: 

  I feel dishonest as I write this.

Here I am—sitting at my desk typing out these words, cocooned in the warmth of a happy life, cushioned by the embrace of a generally safe and happy mind. Everything I know about depression came from online articles, YouTube videos, WHO articles, TED Talks, and Hollywood. Bangladesh, my country, has failed miserably in the task of educating me or anyone else on the issue of depression, with mainstream communities often writing off or dismissing depression as just “strange behavior” instead of a serious disorder needing treatment. I know about depression, but I don’t know depression, and (hopefully) I never will.

Hence, I feel dishonest as I write this. It’s a feeling of fakeness I can’t quite shake. Depression—from the tight little handful of knowledge I have about it—is a sentiment that engulfs you from the inside, grabbing at every little intestine and innard, clawing at the daintiest fibers of your soul, chewing away at the essence of your being. That poetic description serves no purpose but to inform me that I simply don’t know what depression feels like, and nor have I ever studied it thoroughly. What authority do I have to make broad statements regarding depression? On what basis do I stand on my little online pedestal and deliver a speech about how to tackle depression when I don’t even know what we’re fighting against?

This article that I’m writing is from the heart of a well-wisher. Not from someone with first-hand experience with the demons of depression, nor a scientist with an extensive background in studying the claw marks left by this mental disorder. At the same time, I’ll try not to be someone who holds the traditional reductionist Hollywood view of depression—a few days or weeks of “feeling sad”, brought on by a messy breakup and characterized by sleeping in, missing work, eating too much or not at all, and other holdfasts of the common depiction of “depression.” Yes, these may be symptoms of depression, but I recognize that the disorder itself—when seen in its entirety—is something that can maliciously shape and mold a person’s life in profound, if not utterly irreparable, ways.

Depression is a threat to the only secure reservoir of talent a nation has—its youth, on the shoulders of whom the nation shall be thrust in the near future. Talking to your parents, your teachers, even your friends, about depression can be arduous and uncomfortable, and that simple fact has moved teenagers across the world to cradle and hide the problems they have in confronting depression. Allowing this monstrous parasite to dig its way deeper into your bones has never helped, nor will it ever. Keeping depression a secret, trying to lock it away, has effectively allowed that disorder fester and become all the more powerful. Before you know it, suicide looks like the happiest option.

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Depression has robbed us of lives and livelihoods. Depression has pushed people off roofs. Depression has tightened the noose around people’s necks as they strung themselves from the ceiling. Depression is what kicks back the chair so we can dangle limply from the ceiling fan. Depression has sliced through wrists and veins, and the scars—still tinged crimson with blood long spilled—remain.

Depression isn’t an easy topic to address because it’s not easy to imagine. You can call depression a monster, a demon, a ghoul, a parasite, an infection of the mind—words that fail to capture the heart of the matter. It’s hard, if not impossible, to place yourself in the shoes of someone with depression and attempt to see the world from their eyes because it’s an experience that’s foreign to almost all of us. Life puts us all at the threat of depression, regardless of race, gender, religion, or creed. The same disorder, the same demons can haunt us all—thus calling for a more unified and coherent approach to eradicating destructive results of depression.

Communication, engagement with society, sharing problems—the things that so many of us are so terrified of—are the very things that keep depression at bay and prevent it from engulfing us fully. Bangladesh has yet to offer any meaningful access to professional counseling as a means to tackle depression, though several centers have popped up across the nation. Counseling homes offering therapy and assistance to people of various ages have done wonders and deserve acclaim for their role in slowing the tides of depression and mental disorder. Despite this, no state-level efforts or actions have been enacted by this country, promising wide-range, affordable, local access to such assistance. High fees and faraway locations can prove to be obstacles for teenagers to access such stress relief homes and benefit from counseling. According to a study popularized by The Guardian (linked below), “mental health is severely underfunded and under-researched, with just 0.5% of the government health budget being spent on mental health” in Bangladesh. Based on research by Orion Group (also linked below), the number of psychiatrists in the country is only about 85.

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The feeling of hopelessness, the powerlessness, the bitterness—the tides of depression can be stemmed from having a person to share it with. Whether a parent or sibling or friend, communicating and sharing problems has done wonders for relieving stress and getting you back on your feet. It helps you understand that there are people who understand your problems, people who care about you, people who want to extend their hand and drag you out of the pits of misery. There are people who want to see you happy and smiling and healthy and positive, and those are the people who can help you achieve that.

Depression can be distracted. Spend time on the things you love—whether it be reading, TV, music, soccer, basketball, writing—the things that make you smile and feel like you had a fulfilling day. These are the things that distract you from depression, distract you from the dark claws trying to wrap themselves around your throat. Teenagehood can be a tough time, marked by feelings of insecurity and constant self-doubt; engaging in activities that give you a sense of accomplishment and renewed confidence can work miracles for teens struggling with depression.

In the end, depression can be fought both internally and externally. What we can do, as a well-meaning community is to establish and promote more therapeutic centers that are affordable and reachable for young citizens, enabling them to gain access to proper counseling instead of incurring society’s judgment. To those suffering, I cannot claim to understand what you’re going through, but all I know is that it’s not fated to continue forever. Take the time to realize that there are people whose love you are shrouded in, people who can help carry you out of depression only if you let them.

 

References

 

Adeeb Chowdhury is a student at William Carey Academy.He is a fan of writing, researching and debating, focusing mostly on social issues, human rights, and global affairs. His multiplicity of interests include Model UN, international matters, and science, and his writings have been published on sites such as the Women Chapter, Mukto-Mona, Shuddashar Magazine, The Bangladeshi Humanist, BornoMala News, and more. He is also the Co-Founder and Vice President of the William Carey Academy Model United Nations Club. 

 

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