Depression — The Silent Epidemic
Stella stood looking over the edge of the famous ‘The Gap’ cliffs in Sydney Harbor. A plunge about 100 metres (300 feet) down onto flat rocks peeping above the splashing waves. A bone shattering death.
She’s 27. Beautiful and smart. Lawyer. Loving family. Great boyfriend. She left a note saying, “If this is all there is, then I can’t bear it any longer.”
Stella isn’t her real name but that’s a true story, told to me by a friend of hers.
No one guessed. Everyone thought she was happy. Friends envied her. The shock to her family was jarring.
For the last 20 years, I’ve had people around me, close to me, who are clinically depressed. They rely on drugs every day to stay functional and sane. For the sake of their privacy I shall not discuss their identities and lives, because clinical depression still carries a big stigma in Asia. You get labelled ‘crazy’, practically unemployable.
Here’s an excellent publicity video for a campaign in Singapore that is trying to change this. If you are not moved at the end of it you’re not human. It’s the best ad I’ve seen in a decade.
And if you think this stigma and silent killer is only in the East, then you’re wrong.
Anthony Bourdain. Celebrity chef with his own hit TV shows. He dined with Obama. He travels the world doing what he loves. He hung himself with his bathrobe belt at the age of 61 in a hotel room.
Kate Spade. Founder of a luxury bag brand hardly any woman doesn’t know. Sold her company for US$2.4 billion last year. Hung herself in her apartment. She was 55. She has a 13-year old daughter.
All around my personal life and in the news, people suffer from depression unknown to their closest. Some decide to end it and shocked their families.
According to the World Health Organization, 300 million adults, or 4% of the world’s population, has depression. Close to 800,000 people die from suicide every year.
6.7% of American adults have had a major depressive episode in the last one year. 15% is estimated to suffer from depression at some point in their lives.
Globally, the number of people living with depression has grown by 18% between 2005 and 2015.
If that doesn’t sound like the greatest disease of our time, then what is?
Is there no cure? Especially for those who are suicidal despite counselling and anti-depressant drugs.
Peter Thiel, venture capitalist and best known as co-founder of PayPal, is funding research in psilocybin for treatment-resistant (traditional therapy and medication) depression . Psilocybin is the psychedelic compound in ‘magic mushrooms’.
CBD, a compound extracted from Cannabis (otherwise known as marijuana, weed or pot) , is increasingly being backed by medical research as effective against depression and anxiety.
These are potential new cures, that could save lives. Let not the stigma of where they come from be a factor slowing down their adoption. Chinese medicine basically takes all its ingredients from plants and animals. Its knowledge has survived 5,000 years and is still thriving.
Share this information if someone you love is clinically depressed. You just might save their lives.
PS: Here’s another epidemic that’s suffering from regulatory bias. This one affects 2.2 million teens in the US and kills millions of adults every year.