The increasing epidemic of depression in India, and the world
how could someone who made us laugh so hard be so sad?
This is how most netizens are reacting to the sad news about comic and actor Robin Williams’ alleged suicide last night. Commentators and journalists have been quick to point out that Williams had been struggling with depression and substance abuse for years. Coming close on the heels of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death – reportedly caused by a drug overdose – this may lead to some amount of introspection in the western world on the increasing alienation and loneliness amongst citizens.
But if we Indians are secretly rejoicing that our strong social fabric and deep family ties shield us from the perils of depression, think again. A 2011 study by the World Health Organization ranked India as the most depressed country in the world, with an unprecedented 36 percent depression rate (it’s hard to find consistent data on this topic – various other researchers have come up with very different numbers and rankings!).
T.M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford, points out several reasons for this trend in your daily read published a few months ago – from increasing urbanization to the “pressure of performance” generated by the constantly sharing social media.
What has exploded in India over the past few decades, but also everywhere else in the world, is information about other people. As we watch television, surf the Internet and follow events around the world, we become intimately aware of other ways of living and of others who are richer and more powerful. We place ourselves in a vast social order in which most of us are ants. It may truly be a depressing reflection.
But the key to solving a problem is first acknowledging its presence. And unless we begin to recognize that the demons that play out in our mind cannot simply be managed by popping pills – but require love, compassion and encouragement – depression may soon become the next mass killer in our country. It’s time to stop being ashamed of “mental problems”, it’s time to start addressing the challenge instead.
Your Daily Read is a daily selection of interesting perspectives from across the world. Are we fully aware of the perils of depression, and do we feel equipped to handle it? What can be done to address this phenomenon in India? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org: we’ll share the best responses on Facebook & Twitter!