When life gets dark, that’s when stars appear among us. Shine bright, beautiful ones. Throw light from your burning hearts – John Mark Green
Bollywood heartthrob, actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who was suffering from depression since over a year, committed suicide on June 14 at his residence in Bandra, Mumbai. He was sharp, intelligent, an introvert, a genius in quantum physics, and a passionate seeker. His deep shiny eyes were a mirror to his beautiful soul. Fans across the country are still mourning his death, trying to make sense of what made a man, brimming with passion and dreams, to take such a drastic step. Haritha Nayak, an expert on Dream Interpretation with symbolic language, Angelica Yantra Therapy and Rebirthing and Jessica Gandhi, a Clinical Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Neuro-Linguistic Programming Coach, throw light on how to identify signs of depression and how to heal with the support of loved ones and professional mental health experts.
Dreams: A doorway to our reality
Dreams are a wonderful mechanism to understand any mental health issues. The mind is extremely powerful and everything in our life is created through our thought processes. When our mind is conflicted, we feel emotionally disturbed and we completely withdraw ourselves from our daily routine as we are not able to process the immense hurt and pain within us. When we put up facades to please everyone around us, it creates pressure on our soul, leading to distortions in our feelings, thoughts and our actions. Depression stems from these self created distortions. We start feeling inauthentic and it creates more separation with our divine self. Depression is a result of the repressed traumas and emotions and putting up a facade for years together. We need to recognise it and heal the unconscious blocks which is brought to the surface. We have been raised to think that we have to behave differently in our personal and professional lives. Even if we are depressed, we smile, laugh and put up a facade at our workplace, thinking that if we confide about our mental health, we may lose our job. According to Nayak, our personal lives have to be balanced in order to have a good career and experience the other bounties of God. If we don’t recognise and address these problems in our personal lives, they amplify and then we feel completely lost.
Lack of awareness to cultivate emotional quotient
We are not taught to cultivate emotional intelligence during our upbringing. There are no holistic modules on emotional and mental health in schools and colleges. The world is currently upheaval due to rise in the number of suicide cases and the spread of Covid-19. People are being shaken up and Covid-19 is like a wake up call to humanity and to all of us, to individually heal our blocks, to which we have numbed out and pushed under the carpet for decades together. At night, while we are sleeping, our dreams show us the real us and the illusions that we live. When we try to fit in with people, do people pleasing acts and put on masks, it creates immense pressure on us which eventually leads to depression.
Identify signs of depression through dreams
If we see darkness and no people in our dreams, it means we are loners. If we see huge objects in our dreams and we see ourselves as extremely tiny, it means we are having an inferiority complex. People try to camouflage inferiority complex by trying to speak confidently, speak aloud and create a false sense of being superior to others.
Portraying a different you on social media
People create a false image on social media. They share happy pictures, pictures of travel and being surrounded by many people. However, our dreams show us a glimpse of our soul and the lies and illusions that we live.
Depression reveals the unconscious
Nayak stated that people need to identify and acknowledge what they don’t like in their lives. For instance, if you see darkness in our dreams and the root cause of it is a marriage which is not making you happy, acknowledge it and try to change it through healing, decoding your dreams and dreams analysis, meditation, chanting etc. As we heal, our dreams change and reflect hope, positivity and light. Dreams enable us to track our own spiritual progress. We need to understand that depression simply brings the unconscious to light and there are always brighter days ahead, once we heal it.
Support of loved ones
In acute cases of depression, medication along with meditation is important. A mentally depressed person should not stop taking medication. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we need help. Family members, loved ones and friends should keep a check on each other. Discussing dreams with a family member is healthy too. Children should also be encouraged to express their dreams, so that parents can intervene, in case children are facing any unknown issues.
Tips for professionals
A psychiatrist, a psychologist or a healer does not have to feel sorry for a person suffering from depression. According to Nayak, some of them merely feel sorry and cannot help the clinically depressed person to navigate through life, because the professional here has not done enough work on self. People undergoing depression need to be loved, supported and shown empathy and compassion. We need to listen to them with undivided attention. They need to be told that they are not lost or crazy and it’s just a phase that will pass.
Identifying signs of depression
According to Jessica Gandhi, for a diagnosis of depression, five or more of these symptoms need to be present for over two weeks. These are on+
- Feeling low and sad most of the time.
- Loss of interest and difficulty in completing daily activities.
- Inability to enjoy activities that were enjoyable earlier.
- Feeling fatigued quickly and a lack of energy throughout the day.
- Difficulty in concentration; thinking; or making decisions.
- Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Negative thoughts about self, life, and the future.
- Loss of appetite, or overeating.
- Feeling guilty, unworthy and blaming yourself for past failures.
- Frequent absence from work and being unable to work.
- Disrupted sleeping patterns, you end up sleeping excessively, or are unable to get adequate sleep.
- Lack of interest in sexual activity, as compared to previous levels of interest.
- Experiencing frequent headaches or body aches like neck pain, or cramps.
- Thoughts about self-harm, suicide or death.
Get the right support from friends, family and a psychiatrist
- Educate yourself about the illness, commonly known as psycho-education.
- Be sensitive and don’t respond in a way that is stigmatizing.
- Be more understanding, supportive and caring.
- Speak and listen in an empathetic and non-judgmental manner.
- Encourage open communication between yourself and your loved one undergoing depression.
- Be watchful for signs of self-harm or comments contemplating suicide.
- Encourage exercise and other activities that can help the person return to their previous functional levels.
- Empathise with them. You could say something like, “I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand.”
- Encourage them to focus on getting through the day rather than focusing on the future.
- Encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with such as help from a doctor or counsellor, or support through suicide hotlines.
- Make sure someone is with them, if they are in immediate danger, try to get professional help for the person feeling suicidal.
Tips for the people undergoing depression
- Look for support from people who make you feel safe and loved.
- Try to engage in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it.
- Join a support group for depression, a space to share you experiences and feelings.
- Do things you enjoyed doing previously.
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Exercise regularly even if you experience fatigue, eventually the fatigue will improve.
- Don’t skip meals and minimize sugar and refined carbs as they are “feel-good” foods but quickly lead to a dip in the mood.
- Boost your mood by eating foods rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Identify the type of negative thoughts you get and let the thoughts pass. Do not act on them.
- Get ample of sunlight, which will uplift your mood.
Here are some causes of depression
- Sadness and grief from the death or loss of a loved one.
- Interpersonal conflict
- Past history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
- Family history of depression: It may run in families and some people may be at an increased genetic risk.
- Major life events like starting a new job, getting fired, divorce and retirement.
- Changes in the brain: Factors such as genetic vulnerability, severe life stressors, substances you may take (some medications, drugs and alcohol) and medical conditions can affect the way your brain and regulate your mood.
- Serious medical condition: Stress and worrying about how you will cope with a serious illness may also lead to depression.
- Alcohol and drug use can both lead to and result from depression.
- Various personality factors like tendency to worry, low self-esteem, sensitive to criticism and negative thinking may all lead to depression.
- Prolonged work stress and loneliness.
Do not hesitate to seek professional help
Understanding that seeking professional help for depression is the first step in the process of overcoming this illness. If you have diabetes, a stomach ache, migraine, you would not hesitate to show it to a doctor, in fact you would find the best doctor, who would make a thorough diagnosis and prescribe medication in order for you to become better. Likewise, understand that going through depression, after a setback is okay, and you can just as easily ask for help as you would, if you had any physical ailments. A mental health professional is trained to identify symptoms and make a diagnosis to ensure that you get the right line of treatment.
There are multiple treatment options available. The course of treatment is decided based on the severity of the illness and other physiological, cognitive and social factors. In some cases, medication is prescribed. Alternatively, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is employed as a mode of treatment.
Types of psychotherapy used in the treatment of depression are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (ITP) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). While talk therapies like CBT are the most commonly used forms of treatment for depression, there are many alternative forms of therapy that can be used. Such as animal assisted therapy, play therapy, yoga therapy and expressive arts therapy which includes music, movement and drama therapy.
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