I wrote this response to an article I read in one of the local newspapers here back in May. The links to the original article and my response are at the bottom of the page.
I refer to the letter “Collective effort to curb youth depression” (May 2), where the writer said: “We should start being happy and encourage others to be happy.”
I am bipolar and I say this from experience: When you’re dealing with anxiety and depression, you cannot just “start being happy”. Depression and similar mental health disorders are fundamentally a chemical imbalance in the brain.
“Choosing” to be happy is a preposterous idea when the chemicals in an individual’s brain are not properly balanced. It is like asking a person with asthma to just stop having asthma attacks.
One of the things I have learnt to master is disguising my pain. I smile. I say “Good morning”, I say “I’m good” when people ask me how I am doing. And I can deceive those closest to me without their having a clue.
In order to truly understand and help those around us with mental health disorders, we must be willing to inform ourselves about mental health and be unafraid to ask questions when we see someone in pain or suffering.
It is casual attitudes and fears of breaching another person’s privacy that can create situations where an individual feels the need to take his or her life. With no outlet to discuss our desperate situation, we feel trapped and helpless and see suicide as the only way to end our pain.
It is society’s responsibility to educate themselves now — not after they have heard about someone who has committed suicide or find out that someone they know suffers from a mental health disorder.
If we wait for a time when we feel comfortable or the topic becomes salient to us, it will already be too late.