Hello, I am Darren Toh. You may have read some of my articles I have written on DoctorxDentist before.
I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, more commonly known as Depression. I think pretty much everyone knows this by now.
Today, I’m going to tell you of some shocking facts about people suffering from depression that you may not have known about.
1. 5% of Singaporeans suffer from depression
Although I state that 5% of Singaporeans suffer from depression, you must know that that is a very conservative estimate!
The truth is, a substantial amount of individuals suffer from depression in Singapore. The next time you get on the MRT, take a glance around. Statistically speaking, you might have just looked at at least 3 people who are suffering from depression.
However, I personally know of at least more than 30 people in my circle of friends who have confided to me before about their depressive symptoms.
I was curious to know how open people were about their illness, so I asked a relatively popular friend of mine who had depression: out of all the people she knew, were there any who had told her that they had depression?
To my great surprise, she told me she knew of no one that had the illness! How lonely she must have felt all this time.
She told me that she hides her misery and pain from all of her friends and family because she feared becoming an outcast.
This is the unfortunate reality for depressives. Personally, I am also very aware of the social consequences of being so open about my illness.
Many people think that I am ‘crazy’ and unhinged, and avoid conversation so as not to be associated with me. They give an ugly smirk when they hear that I go to IMH on a regular basis.
It is easy to label everyone who goes to IMH as crazies afterall.
2. Many depressives aren't aware of their illness
I was once chatting with a friend of mine, and he confided that he cried every day before he went to sleep.
We went on to discuss his life situation, and he told me that he had experienced a break up. Seems like a perfectly logical reason to be upset, right?
I probed further, and he told me that he experienced the break up a year ago, and that he had only dated the girl for a month!
The truth is that many of the life stressors that we experience are perfectly reasonable things to get upset over, and even cry about.
However, depression is when the sadness does not fade, and leaves you in perpetual misery.
After some time of grieving, we typically heal, move on, or find ways to cope and function in society.
Admittedly, even I have difficulties discerning between what is depression and what is normal sadness.
However, I have had help with this matter thanks to psychotherapy (‘counselling’) and introspection.
3. Everyone has a different story to tell
The worst thing one can do to a depressive is to invalidate their personal experiences.
Depression is a highly personal illness that requires a lot of contextual understanding and maturity to deal with.
You should never clump depressives together and characterise them as one group who are all suffering from the exact same thing.
Depression is difficult to solve because it is so personal to every individual.
Due to psychiatry’s attempts to medicalise depression, we try to characterise depressive individuals with ‘symptoms’, such as ‘being unkempt’ and ‘having low energy’.
I was once told by a psychiatrist that I did not have depression because I dyed my hair and went on a holiday trip with my friends. What? I had been crying myself to sleep every single day for the past two years!
Perhaps these factors are useful indicators of depression, but we must remember them for what they are: ONLY INDICATORS.
Thankfully in this modern day, psychiatry has reformed. More people are recognising that depression is not merely a chemical imbalance in the brain, but a complex interplay of psychological, environmental and biological factors.
That is why modern day treatment for depression often includes talk therapy.
4. You don't need to have depression to understand those who have it
I have heard many stories and anecdotes from depressives, and one phrase I often hear is “Wow, no one has understood me so deeply like you have.”
While I pride myself on my ability to relate to others, I have to declare my secret to everyone: I simply listen.
When someone is pouring out their heart to you, this is what you can do: before you offer your ‘advice’ from your own store of personal experiences, such as “Just get over it” or “You need to stay strong”, just listen!
You would be surprised at how much you can learn from just listening. By offering follow up prompts, you can get a better sense of how another person feels and ‘get’ them.
The other person will also feel a more meaningful connection with you, and all you did was lend a listening ear (or possibly a shoulder too).
5. Depressives are human, perhaps the most human of us
Every individual I have met who shared about their depression with me has always displayed compassion and sincerity on a level that surpasses that of society in general.
Perhaps it is time that we took a step back and reflected on ourselves, and of society, about what is it that truly makes us human.
The level of cynicism I see in society, such as not giving a dollar to a beggar, or not helping someone when they fall, is perhaps a reflection of how distrustful we have become.
However, I am not here to judge, but merely to share my observations.
Depression often has a biological basis behind it, which I wholly agree with, but let us not forget that we are also social creatures by nature.
In such a society, I am not surprised that some of us slip through the cracks and find ourselves discontent, and perhaps even resentful with our lives and of the relationships we have with others.
I am of the opinion that depression is also an astute reflection of our societal values, where our lack of concern for each other has led to some of us being damaged and hurt as a result.
The humanity I know embodies values of kinship, love and deep compassion.
The brothers and sisters I know would pitch in and help, even giving up a part of themselves to help each other, and we would all be better off for it.
Please join me in helping the disenfranchised, for they need it the most.
Please join me in being human.
Darren Toh is a DxD guest writer, and a former professional League of Legends player who was once the best in South East Asia. He has retired and is currently studying to get into university. He is an oddball who dares to tread where no one else does. He hates the smell of silicone.