"There are many ways to die, and not all of them have to do with extinction. A lot of them have to do with living. Living many lies. Living without asking questions. Living in the cave of your own prejudices. Living the life imposed on you, the dreams and codes of your ancestors."
Some five years ago a beautiful girl and friend of my brother's decided to take her life and leave this Earthly one. We didn't know, but she was quite mentally unwell and suffering from severe depression.
What can I tell you about Arina other than in the five days that I had the privilege to know her, she left an impression on my soul. She had a quiet and calm presence, full of love, kindness, generosity and peace. Her soul shone so brightly, it could have lighted an entire dark valley with its warmth and energy. In her 21 years, she accomplished what many don't do in an entire lifetime. She travelled across several continents, over 17 countries and was even part of the UWA team who were the winners of the 2008 Google Online Marketing Challenge where 1700 groups from 140 countries applied. In her 21 years, Arina organised countless charity fundraisers and events and was always meeting new people and sharing her wonderful spirit where-ever she went.
The year 2010 marked Arina's 21st birthday and her final year at university. Though it was time for her to apply for graduate positions, she felt that there was no job she wanted to do. She couldn't see herself in a stereotypical 9 to 5 role as an office worker. More than anything she wanted to travel and help people and she felt that she couldn't make a living from doing that. In April of 2010, Arina's family took her to a doctor who diagnosed her with severe depression and put her on medication. Arina didn't like taking the medication. She also felt hopeless and didn't see a point in continuing to live and totally withdrew from herself and her social life.
A month later, on May 19th 2010, depression took Arina's life.
Why am I sharing this story with you?
Well, firstly, because we need to talk about the elephant in the room.
Namely: Suicide. Depression. Mental health. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety. Just to name a few.
Secondly, I am sharing this story to highlight that depression doesn't discriminate and even the happiest and accomplished people can fall into mental illness and feel that their life is worthless.
And thirdly, even with over 350 million people worldwide diagnosed with depression, talking about mental health for many people in many countries and cultures, is still very taboo. And yet, we are willing to discuss work problems, talk about fashion, gossip about TV shows and celebrities and openly share relationship problems, but talking about the state of our mind and emotions is still seen a brave and courageous phenomenon that only a few people do.
Isn't that both interesting and bizarre?
Now, you've probably heard or are familiar with the proverb, 'a problem shared is a problem halved.' Scientists decided to do some research about it to see how that fares in the real world. So in 2014, a study in California found that the best way to reduce stress is to share your feelings and discuss your problems with someone, and if it's someone who is in the same situation as you, it yields the best results.
Now that talking about our problems and sharing them with someone is scientifically proven, we can each conduct a social experiment in our own lives of how we feel when we tell someone the state of our mind and if it alleviates our stress, or not.
Talking about depression, suicide, mental health and sharing our stories with each other also helps us connect on a human level, and maybe even help someone put their situation and life in perspective. As an example, when I was going through depression a few years ago, I was on the phone with Dawn, a close friend of mine, who reminded me to focus on everything I have that some people in world don't. Instantly, by talking about my problems with a friend, my perspective shifted towards gratitude and focusing on the blessings in my life as opposed to what I am missing. And though this was a daily challenge, especially since my mind and life were so down in the dumps, just a simple reminder from a friend helped me change my mental wavelength. If I hadn't phoned Dawn, I would have continued looping the same story in my mind and felt worse and worse with each time.
If enough of us start talking about mental health, we will probably create a ripple effect in society and possibly more and more people will start to openly talk about their mental health as well. So much so, that hopefully this ripple creates a wave and the wave rolls into the governments around the world where more reforms and actions are taken on an official level with changes implemented into national health organisations, work place reforms and even town and community planning.
So, how can we start the conversation?
We can start with a small step: we can pay it forward.
- Share this blog on social media.
- Share your story in the comments below or with a friend who you've known for a while but haven't completely opened up to.
- Ask someone at work how they really are.
- Call a friend or organise a catch up and tell them your story or ask them about theirs.
- Send someone an empowerment card.
- Tell someone you love them.
- Give a stranger a compliment.
Though these are all little things and barely involve any financial cost, each one of them has the potential to save a life. Like Arina, no matter how well our lives may be going, we can all feel a little hopeless sometimes and sometimes that conversation or message or story can help bring perspective and a smile into our minds and hearts. Sometimes that's all it takes to keep us going.
Other times, we may need more.
But for the moment, let's start talking.
We might even save a life today.
Wouldn't that be worth it?
And if you don't feel comfortable talking to the people in your immediate life, you can also reach out to these organisations. The hyper-links will take you to their sites: