Trigger Warning: Mentions of depression and verbal abuse.

 

Asha* was a beautiful, ambitious young girl with the brightest smile. She told very bad jokes, to be honest, but she had a laugh so contagious, that you couldn’t help but laugh at them with her. If she was a color, she’d be yellow.

She was THAT kind of person.

A few weeks after her 21st birthday, Asha died. I remember so vividly the moment that my parents gave me this devastating news. There was silence in the room; the grief was palpable. I had so many questions. How? We had just spoken a few days ago when I wished her a happy birthday.

The story of Asha is real. I knew her. Maybe you know an Asha of your own.  Or maybe Asha’s story resonates with that of your own.

It turns out that she had depression, and had been hiding it for years.

Initially, she was hesitant to opt for treatment, but as her pain grew and it started to devour more and more of her body, she decided to seek help.

Her cry for help was met with the following statements:

  • Stop being dramatic!
  • You’re going to go see a psychiatrist? What will people say?
  • Won’t you be humiliated? You can’t just be going around saying you have a mental illness! What if people start treating you differently?
  • Ugh, me too man. Sometimes I feel like I have depression too. But then I distract myself and think positive thoughts and I feel better. Have you tried that?
  • You’re so beautiful and intelligent! How can someone like you have depression?
  • You’re too smart to have depression! I mean look at you! You have straight A’s and such a promising future!
  • Trust me you don’t have depression. Just don’t think about it. The more you think about it, the more you will believe you have it.
  • Honestly, I went through the same thing and I prayed about it and look at me now! I’m completely cured. I didn’t even need therapy.
  • Are you sure you have depression? You look fine!
  • You have depression because you’re too distant from faith. You should really consider becoming more religious. You should go see a priest.

All Asha got was advice. Lots of it. What Asha didn’t get was help or support to find a solution to her suffering. Her cries for help went unnoticed, all while she was clenching on to dear life, gasping for air whilst under a crushing weight, with not even a sliver of hope in sight.

Asha had been fighting an internal battle with depression for so long. Her cry for help was the only one she had left in her. It was her last fight to stay alive.

Asha died. Though it gives me peace in believing that maybe she’s in a better place, a place without the pain, it wrenches my soul knowing she died a long, miserable death full of anguish. This lethal disease took her life.

And yes, I’m fully allowed to call it a disease, as psychiatrists have called it that as a result of research.

This news was met with statements like:

  • She died because she was weak! She should have been stronger.
  • She just died? But she had such a promising future!
  • I think people like her just want attention.
  • She didn’t even think about her family? How selfish.
  • I have depression too and I’m fine! And my depression is way worse than her’s.

This is not a competition.

How completely nonsensical would these statements seem if Asha didn’t die of depression, but rather died from cancer? People would be perhaps more empathetic and significantly less judgemental. Depression is a disease that is not cancerous, in theory but is still malignant. It is agonizing and noxious.

This lethal disease took her life.

This disease has taken the lives of millions of people. The most loved and cherished people. People with a laugh so infectious that it veils their internal wars and Asha was no exception. No one is immune to it. Like cancer, depression also has biological instigators, often requiring immediate medical attention rather than a simple dose of “cheer up!”

Mental illnesses are real.

The story of Asha is real. I knew her. Maybe you know an Asha of your own.  Or maybe Asha’s story resonates with that of your own.

How many more Ashas do we have to know before we make a change? I don’t want Asha to become yet another statistic.

I don’t want you to have known an Asha of your own, who became a victim of this disease.

We need to be there for each other. We need to check up on one another. We need to remove the stigma that exists around speaking up and seeking professional help.

This disease has taken the lives of millions of people. The most loved and cherished people.

We need to work towards creating a safe environment in which people who are suffering can vocalize their struggles and their voices are heard with empathy and sensitivity. We need to recognize and acknowledge someone’s cry for help because it might have taken a lot of courage, and it might be the only will to fight left in them.

We must do better. We need to do better.

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*The names in this article have been changed to protect those involved. 


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Minahil Shahid

By Minahil Shahid

Writer