Depression is very much stigmatised around the world and can be a tricky topic to address. Caregiver stories were that’s why a great way to open up about the stigma. We spoke with Ms Neetu Takroo and Ms Bhavisha Dave along with Dr. Ananya Sinha.
Neetu, one of our speakers brought forth her experiences with depression personally. The situation she faced with her mother came into mind, where she spoke on the lack of education, lack of support and recognition- that her major parental figure was suffering from a mental illness was a major factor.
The creation of a safe space to voice your concerns was important during that time or for anyone going through depression- which is something her family was late to realise.
Often in cases, as Neetu explained, when you try to tell people and seek advice from them regarding depression, mental health and your feelings, the immediate response is “You’re overreacting” or “You’re crazy”.
Society has made the subject so taboo, that people are unaware that the type of words they use are very inappropriate in the situation. This is why it’s very easy for us to isolate ourselves from other people to save us from the judgemental whispers and critical eyes.
A lot of us don’t want to be the subject of mockery, where you know if somebody is laughing- they are most definitely laughing at you. Neetu went on to talk about the reality of it is that the minute your mental illness is out there, you’re labelled a ‘loser’ or ‘weak’. Someone that cannot hold their own in society.
Everyone is multifaceted and they all have their own sufferings, their own problems. Yet, society feels the need to have an opinion about it the minute it gets too difficult to handle. Neetu mentioned how people would start to make fun of her and liken her to her mother and the illness. Because she didn’t have complete agency over her thoughts, feelings – the blame fell onto her inability to cope.
Bhavisha shared her story own experience where she experienced a similar situation. Her father was diagnosed with BPD, but until then family and friends only believed that he was nuts. There had been no diagnosis for quite a few years. Her late husband was an alcoholic and she was often blamed for choosing an alcoholic for a husband. She agreed with Neetu and said that “what everyone really needs is someone to talk to.
” However, due to the “judgemental” society we live in today, it can be very hard to come across people who aren’t like that. The pandemic is what it took for people to realise that maybe it’s okay to come out and talk, yet it is still unfortunate it took so long to happen.
The lack of awareness in that space is a major concern as not everyone has someone to talk to because of the stigma and other issues like finding the right psychiatrist for you. This can also be difficult since the minute you start asking around,
The journey does become a little easier as long as people talk, seek help and move on. As Neetu also said, finding that determination to take yourself out of the depressive episode is a major factor along with the right medication and diagnosis.
It could be either bipolar or depression, the disease is not only in the mind of the person, but it is also a family disease. It may be one person that has the illness, but everybody around them also suffer in their own way.
In the next segment, heyy, asked Dr Ananya to shine some light on community support and bringing families together when depression affects a member. Her advice targeted not only family members, but anybody that’s feeling depressed or has told you that they aren’t having a great day. T
here will be instances where you create various opinions that could range from- ‘why are they sad over something like this?’ to ‘why should they feel like that?’. However, at the end of the day, that is your opinion and it shouldn’t invalidate someone else’s feelings. Just simply saying ‘I understand you’re having a bad day’ can go a long way. Maybe you can lend another hand and ask if they’d like to talk about it?
Invalidating someone’s feelings is the worst thing anyone can do and can push someone to the point where they feel even more isolated than before.
It’s very easy to withdraw further and further because you feel so alone on the battlefield, which is something depression can easily cause for the person.
Dr Ananya elaborated further on how depression can feel like you’re seeing the world through a pair of black sunglasses. The hopelessness and negative aspect is suffocating, and it takes an immense amount of courage to just reach out and accept help.
It’s especially hard if there is no validation for your feelings after reaching out. Just talking about mental health will make it easier to break the stigma and lack of awareness surrounding the topic. This is what will also help out when trying to learn how not to invalidate someone’s feelings and how to properly reach out to a professional without fear.
Caregiving and support system
Moving on, heyy, touched upon the aspect of caregiving by especially asking Bhavisha her experiences being the primary caregiver for her father and husband and how she navigated through the difficulties and emotional support she might’ve needed. In her case, regarding her father and husband, her immediate family which consisted of her mother, her daughter and herself- all felt anxiety.
Her statement of mental illness being a family disease was showcased through the anxiety they all felt as a family as they were unaware of what was going to happen next. The pressure and anxiety over whether the next day was going to be better than the last was always there looming.
In addition to this, the feeling of shame, guilt and embarrassment regarding both of their illnesses was also a main issue at the time for her as well. So, when it comes to caregiving it is very important to look at your family member as a patient and not your father, husband, sister etc.
It makes it easier to give them a correct diagnosis and make sure to get better sooner rather than later when it’s too late. The patient definitely needs medical treatment, but the caregiver and family members also need some counselling or therapy to just help them through the tough time they are going through.
Bhavisha further emphasised on the codependency a lot of the caregivers feel, where they believe they are responsible for the patient’s happiness and wellness. This characteristic of pseudo-illness they experience as well is probably why many of them suffer the most.
It’s very rare to hear concern for the caregivers wellbeing and how any tips can be given to ease the situation. Because of the stigma and the pressure surrounding mental health conversations, it’s extremely difficult for caregivers to find that help and support- which can easily push them into depression as well.
Where can you look for support
Neetu spoke about how comforting it is to have someone to talk to that is going through a similar situation as you are. It creates that sense of sanity and normality- whereby you finally realise people like you exist out there in the world and you aren’t the only one.
The most important thing to remember is that what you are feeling- whether you are the primary caregiver or someone who is feeling depressed- is none of this is a figment of your imagination or something one can control. Thus, much like a virus or an infection- it exists and is present in the world, and is most definitely something you cannot sweep under the rug.
Finding someone you have affection for, to share such instances with them, can be especially easier to open up. There will always be that initial thought process where everyone believes they’re a burden and shouldn’t open up about the problems they are facing. However, once you do so in a safe space with someone you care for, it becomes easier to let go of any struggles one can have when letting someone in.
Towards the end of the session Dr Ananya discussed the importance of self-care and quality time regarding a question from the audience, where it is extremely important to carve out time for yourself for the betterment of your wellbeing.
In relation to mainly caregivers and the burden they carry, just merely spending time with a close family member such as your child, can make a big difference. However, professionals can also bring in a certain healing and support that can be tough to find elsewhere.