The Silent Killer

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Cancer, hypertension and diabetes among many other “lifestyle diseases” are all silent killers. Another subtle silent killer we often overlook is depression. Here’s the thing with depression, unlike other silent killers, depression can afflict anyone. The rich, the poor, male, female, black, white–anyone can be affected by depression.

In July Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington committed suicide. The news of his death caused quite a stir on social media. Many Linkin Park fans (me included) were devastated by the news. Linkin Park had released their seventh studio album “One More Light” in May and Chester appeared fine. Most people who contemplate and eventually commit suicide usually become reclusive. But Chester continued to perform and appear in public. Therefore, his death was unexpected.

And that’s what makes depression so subtle. It’s hard to see. It masks itself so well to the extent of being near undetectable. Somebody could be laughing on the outside but crying on the inside.

As a result of depression, Chester committed suicide. The taking of human life is wrong even if it’s your own. But when death seems like the only viable option over life surely there must have been a concrete reason for committing suicide. Among many Kenyan communities, people don’t want to look at the reason for committing suicide. Bottom-line is suicide is unjustified, unforgivable and criminal. If suicide victims could be resuscitated some people would probably kill them and ensure they die a slow and painful death. Suicide victims are often buried in a clandestine manner. It’s like a covert operation. No funeral crushers, no hired mourners and that sort of thing. Just family members, a couple of friends and a few unrelated people speaking in hushed tones about how the deceased took his own life. It’s a sad state of affairs. Or maybe it isn’t. I’m not saying suicide is justified, no; however, we should all critically examine the reasons that led to someone committing suicide. Also, suicide victims should be accorded decent funerals. They deserve their last respects too. I’ve digressed, haven’t I? Well, it had to be said. Moving on…

Depression is a mood disorder. It is mostly caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression is more than just a feeling of feeling “blue” for a few days. It’s a persistent wave of sadness and hopelessness that can last weeks, months and even years. Depression may come about as a result of various life challenges such as; domestic violence, failed relationships, multiple traumatic loss, loss of work and broken dreams. These are tragedies that may befall anyone and how we cope, call it “damage control” if you like, is what matters.

Often to cope with depression, the depressed person may turn to drug and substance abuse. Many drugs and alcohol are known to repress mood. They just serve as temporary fixes. However, in the long run, they do more harm than good. Alternative methods should thus be used to handle depression.

Studies have shown that people who cope better and do not succumb to depression have strong support systems, have a higher level of spirituality and life meaning and are able to talk more to others about their difficult experiences. Hey, a problem shared is a problem half solved, right? Conversely, those who give in to depression seem to have less support system and may be withdrawn from other people. Do you think you may be depressed? Don’t go into isolation you don’t need quarantine. Mix and interact with other people (however hard this may seem) it often helps.

Depression need not be chronic. With the appropriate interventions, one can achieve full recovery.

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

Stephen Fry

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