The details of model-TV actor Kuljeet Randhawa’s death are everywhere. Her body found hanging from a ceiling fan, an apparent case of suicide.
I’ve heard many TV channels talk of how lonely she must have been, the pressure that she writes about in her suicide note.
While I have no personal knowledge of Randhawa’s life- I do know this- that many if not a majority of those who commit suicide aren’t alone, nor is it the pressure that kills them.
There’s a dark killer on the prowl, one that no one wants to talk about- depression. It seems like an imaginary state of mind, but in fact is linked to low levels of very real chemicals in the brain. Instead, since it has no physical symptoms it is thought of as a mental imbalance – and people suffering thought of as eccentric, unhinged or just plain crazy.
For most, it’s hard to relate to. Yet it is estimated that worldwide, a million people die this way each year.That’s about how many die from common diseases like jaundice or hepatitis B. In the U.S. more people die of suicide than homicide. And yet, and yet, so little is known about depression.
I lost one of my friends to depression- she was not alone, she was not unhappy, she was not under pressure.
She suffered from depression.
And struggled and fought bravely for years against its demons. It was hard to understand her war at the time, but words from American novelist William Styron, who painfully wrote down his own experiences of the illness, may throw some light. "If we felt physically on the outside, the way we feel on the inside," he wrote, "We would be strapped up in an ICU." It’s like being locked up in a hot burning furnace- and the only way out is an exit from life itself.
Try if you will understand the agony of the patient- mentally your veins are ripped open, your gut wrenched out, your eyeballs under piercing pressure. But none of this shows- and few around you fathom the depth of your pain. Then you may begin understand how some of the most gentle and sensitive people in the world are able to wreak this sort of inhuman violence- on themselves.
In fact, blessed are those that have a ‘reason’ to be depressed-a bad parent,a bad marriage, a difficult job, a poor examination result, financial troubles, etc. At least the world around allows you to suffer without expecting you to "just snap out of it".
William Styron was at the pinnacle of his career. Author of the bestselling novel that also became a smash hit film, "Sophie’s Choice", his depression deepened just as he reached Paris to receive a big award from the French government.
What makes his book " Darkness Visible" (p.1990) particularly special is that he recounts a stage in suicidal depression where most people with the same illness stop being able to communicate with the world. He describes each moment, to details of how he plans his suicide, and how a last minute intervention saves him from taking his life.
Styron was lucky – so many of us aren’t. And what makes it harder is the conspiracy of silence that surrounds each suicide.It wasn’t until my friend died- that others I knew actually shared details of people they had lost to depression. In ‘protecting’ the victims of depression, we are in fact increasing the isolation of other victims.
We need to get medical help to victims. Then, we need to dispel the stigma- a heart patient is free to talk about his medication, the diabetic of his insulin, the High Blood Pressure patient of his. These are medical conditions just as depression is.Yet no one I know who suffers from depression can break the circle of whispers about the disease.
It is not an illness of the weak-minded, it is not a disease that afflicts only the rich city-dwellers, it is not an imagined problem — and, it is not- incurable.
The first step- to talk about it, and break through the invisible darkness.