The Anatomy of a Killer

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There was once a rich man. One day, while reading the newspaper during breakfast, he came across a startling news. People across the world were suffering from poverty. The rich man was perplexed. He became sad. He wanted to fix the problem. So he donated all his money in the hope that all the suffering in the world would end.

The rich man was now a pauper. He was homeless and begged on the streets. But he was happy thinking his money had ended all the suffering in the world. Then he came across an old newspaper where he again read a piece of startling news. People across the world were suffering from illnesses. The rich man, now a pauper, once again became perplexed. He, once again, became sad. He once again, wanted to fix the problem. So he went to a doctor, and donated his kidney in the hope that it will end the suffering.

But there was one problem. His single kidney could not possibly cure all the illnesses in the world. So he went back to the doctor again, and asked that his eyes, liver, heart, and the remaining kidney would be donated. The doctor said he must be crazy. He will die if did so, and sent him back.

Perplexed and miserable, the rich man decided to end his life. He donated all his organs in the hope that all the miseries of the world would come to an end.

Alas! That was not to be. The world moved on and so did the suffering of the people.

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The parable of the rich man leaves many of us in a state of uncertainty. Although no one argues what he did was indeed a noble thing to do, many of us find ourselves asking the inevitable question, why didn’t he just choose to join a charity instead of ending his life? Indeed, a living person is certainly more helpful than a dead one. This is a no brainer!

But the question that is rarely asked is that why though, did he take his own life? Is it because of the guilt? Is it because the suffering of the people was too much for his conscience? And to end his own life, alas, was the only viable option left? To go by the rich man’s actions, yes, maybe so.

But a smart person might ask, but which guilt are we talking about? We all know the world suffers. But surely we can’t directly be responsible for it. We can’t feel guilty for it. The answer is, unfortunately some of us do. While I may not know exactly why the rich man took his own life, I can take a close guess, and I also know why many have opted for the same, and the reason is heartbreaking. It is called, Depression.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Depression currently affects more than 300 million people worldwide. This makes it quite a common illness, ironically though people seldom talk about it. It’s not similar to feeling low which is usually short-lived. If it persists for more than two weeks, please go and seek medical treatment.

Depression kills!

As unbelievable as it may sound, Depression (and other mental health illnesses) are on the rise globally)! And the most unfortunate thing is that although there are known, effective treatments for Depression, fewer than half of those affected in the world (in many countries, fewer than 10%) receive such treatments. As a result, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Depression is a silent killer.

But, it’s all in your head.

If we take a magnifying glass, and focus it on India, the situation is quite worse. Depression or any form of mental illness is a taboo here. There is no concept of mental health, here.

I recently went to my chemist to purchase new medicines for myself. He was pretty disappointed in me. He was quite baffled by the fact that a young, unmarried girl could even have a mental illness, and offered me a piece of ‘sympathetic’ advice. “Ladki, tu sudhar ja”. Translation: “Girl, mend your ways.” Never mind the fact that this a medical professional who generously parted with this unnecessary piece of ‘advice’, but this single sentence reflected the entire history of how our society views Depression and its victims.

Here’s a question for you. Would you ask a Cancer patient to ‘mend’ her/his ways?

No one is Depressed by choice, and no, a depressed person is NOT seeking attention. In fact, people suffering from depression, often wear masks to hide it. Masks of happiness which falsely reflect that everything with them is well, everything is normal but inside their hearts there’s always a storm brewing. They are anxious, they are scared, and when the mask comes off, they cannot face the world.

It’s difficult for people who have not gone through Depression to understand the pain one goes through while waking up in the morning. The thought of facing the world is a sad, miserable one. What once used to bring joy, now only brings apprehension and panic. Happiness becomes an alien concept, and life becomes unbearable. Some miserably wait for it to end, while others unable to bear the pain, decide to end it themselves. They are not cowards, they are lonely, and terribly, terribly misunderstood.

At its worst, Depression leads to Suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15–29 year olds. Yet, we refuse to talk about it.

In his TED Dialogues, Yuval Noah Harari, celebrated historian, and author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, has said, “For the first time in history, more people commit suicide than are killed by crime and and terrorism and war put together. Statistically, you are your own worst enemy. At least, of all the people in the world, you are most likely to be killed by yourself…”.

From a more philosophical standpoint, Depression forces us to lose our story. The futileness of it all is so very apparent. The little joys, whether it’s the first drop of rain hitting the ground, or the smell of a newly bought book, of life is lost. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Like all killers, Depression can be stopped as well. For starters, we need awareness. And no shaming. Like every other illness, the patient needs empathy, and a suitable medical treatment, and it will go away.

Awareness. Empathy. Treatment.

The rich man from the parable could not have ended the suffering of the whole world. But all of us hold the key to end our own. The choice and the rest is up to us.

If you liked this article, please press the little heart and share it with your peers. We need more and more people like you to raise awareness to combat Depression. Thank you!