Depression is not merely sadness. Depression is not simply being disconnected from God. Depression is real and it shouldn’t be minimised.
Actor Resham said, in her opinion, depression doesn’t exist while appearing on PTV Home’s Ramazan transmission, Guest at Home on March 24 alongside hosts Sami Khan and Juggan Kazim.
“So as we were talking about earlier, these days, people are very depressed. People get lost in their worries because they don’t have a relationship with God, so they get taken in by their worries,” said Khan.
“I always say to people, I believe depression doesn’t even exist. Distance from God is called depression,” replied Resham. “My sister raised me, I wasn’t raised by my parents, so whenever I missed my parents — I never felt their loss because of the way my sister raised me — but whenever I did, I always say, whenever you feel depressed or feel anything really, you should sit on the prayer mat and cry before God.”
Resham lost her parents when she was a young girl and clearly felt that closeness to God helped her get through a very tough time in her life. And that’s very true — being close to God is something that can bring people great comfort in times of sadness and trials. But to say that depression is distance from God belittles people’s feelings as well as their relationship with God.
Just because someone is depressed, doesn’t mean they aren’t close to God. Religion is a very personal thing and we understand that Resham was talking about her personal relationship with God but to make this sweeping statement on a widely watched show wasn’t the best course of action.
Feeling sadness or depression or any other negative emotion is normal and not a consequence of being distant from God — it’s a consequence of being human. We wish that Resham had been more careful in her wording, if only to protect the feelings of those who feel depressed.
Not paying close attention to people pointing this out to her, Resham posted a video of her talking about depression on her Instagram account with we would call a non-apology. “Every person has their own way of thinking and to me, the solution to every problem is turning to God and love for God, be it depression or anything else. Perhaps some people didn’t understand my words. Not everyone understands deep words. I want to tell everyone criticising me to divert their energies towards something more important. May God keep everyone happy.”
We would have hoped that instead of this patronising clarification, she would have realised that people are not criticising her relationship to God but her dismissal of a very real medical condition.
Much of the criticism also revolved around the need for Pakistanis to acknowledge that depression is a real thing.
Depression does exist and it’s far more serious than just sadness.
It is defined by the Aga Khan University Hospital as “more than a feeling of simply being unhappy or fed up for a few days. We all go through spells of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
“Some people still think that depression is a trivial issue and not a genuine health condition but they are wrong as depression is a real illness, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can treat yourself for without professional help. It can be caused by stress, anxiety and adverse circumstances, genetic causes, pregnancy, change of seasons etc.”
According to AKUH, some of the symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Appetite or unexpected weight changes
- Sleep problems
- Concentration and memory problems
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Resham, and all others who brush off depression as a ‘phase’, should be aware that once diagnosed with depression (a clinical term), a person will need help in the form of a doctor and, in some cases, medication.
In our society, people often dismiss depression as temporary sadness or a bad mood, but it’s far more serious than that and should be acknowledged as such. Whether you’re a student, a parent, a professional, or any of the other roles we take on in the society, there is stress that you have to cope with. Some have a better grasp of coping with it, others don’t. Also, those who turn to God do so for multiple reasons, from mental stress and financial burdens to health issues. Why? Because these conditions are a hard reality for them. Just like depression.
Depression exists, Resham