Loneliness and depression

In April 2012, Dimitris Christoulas put a gun on his head in front of the Parliament and declared: 'I am not committing suicide. They are killing me'. After that, he pulled the trigger. If we go a bit deeper into the the details of this tragedy, we come to know how institutions and culture can push someone into that corner of darkness where he/she finds peace in being alone or even in death than being around people or living life. The fundamental question that comes to one's mind in this kind of scenario is what bring humans to this stage where they prefer death over life and loneliness over being around the people. In my view, the institutional and cultural pathologies associated with different and unexpected behaviors are the main reasons of isolation, loneliness or even suicides sometimes.

By institutional pathologies, I mean the brutal forces of capitalism which rarely gives humans a chance to engage in social activities. For instance, many children become victims of stress and depression at an early age because their parents couldn't find enough time to give them proper attention due to enormous burden of work. Resultantly, the children, having no one around them to listen to their worries, pile up all their bad emotions and fall into the hands of constant sadness and depression. The same children then respond similarly to the loneliness of their parents when they get old. This behavior of the children is also the result of capitalism which forced them to focus on career and future. In such an environment, we rarely see people who think from their hearts and compromise their interests for others. Lastly, we can assume that modern capitalism has rationalized everything including our love for others (https://www.khanblog.org/post/rationalizing-the-irrational) and we only extend our helping hand to others after proper cost benefit analysis.

The second part part of the story is cultural pathology associated with sadness. Unfortunately, as a society, we are not open to listen to the sad, bad or the tragic experiences of our fellow human beings. If we look at the cultural understanding of all these other feelings (many people call it negative but for me its just other types of feelings), we arrive at the conclusion that we cannot be sad, or stressed or depressed in public spaces. From time to time, we are being told that these emotions are unacceptable and do not belong to humans. This kind of cultural sickness forces the sad people to distance themselves from those who are not ready to listen to the sad sides. Furthermore, contrary to providing a helping hand, the majority start distancing themselves from that person by associating various stigmas like a person with bad vibes, or depressed or sad soul. Such response of society hits hard the person, leading to intense feelings of loneliness, sadness and depression.

Again, having depression, I think, is as normal as all other attributes of human psychology like happiness or sadness. The only difference , however, between sadness and depression is the intensity and time frame of bad feelings. Sadness, for instance, might be for a short time and can turn into happiness by slight changes in mood but depression can be a constant state of mind and would stay for longer time. One can say that depression is the higher form of sadness which results from constant bad experiences. In other words, it is the stigmatized version of enormous amount of sad emotions. Also, like sadness, it can be treated by opening up the person and getting to know the person and exploring different sides of his/her personality. The society, however, push a person with depression to one corner because of stigmas regarding depression where he/she finds solace in loneliness.

The advanced capitalist world, which I romanticized once in Pakistan, has started making me afraid of their realities regarding these types of stigmas. Berlin, for instances, is becoming the capital of loneliness with larger population of lonely people. Similarly, Germany, followed by UK, is on the way to have responsible person on governmental level to tackle the issues of loneliness. . In such awful situations, various initiatives like chitchat hotlines for elderly people besides professionally organized cuddle parties and self help social media groups are created to surmount loneliness. These initiatives might work but it is also important to work on cultural and institutional level to fight loneliness and depression.

Institutionally, people need to balance their work and social life. The economic race needs a break or at least needs to be slowed down a bit, so that people can focus on social interactions. Culturally, we need to accept people with all their sad and broken parts of their souls. It is important to listen to the sad and the tragic experiences of others in order to understand them. It might be possible that their tragic experiences might open our eyes and help us personally to avoid the upcoming tragedies of the future.

Also, we have to be ready to listen to the bad, the ugly and the good experiences of others. For instance, a person who is constantly going through crisis, having no option of letting out the bad feelings, will ultimately end up in depression. In such situations, it is the responsibility of others to interact with those who are undergoing depression. The best strategy could be winning the heart of that person before changing the mind of a person who is alone or depressed. In such case, one has to be open and sincere to the other person, so that he/she feels comfortable in talking about his/her worries and sorrows. I believe that a person who is at the receiving end of a challenge is always emotional and tries to find emotional solution. The listener, however, is always rational because he is not approaching the problem of others with the same intensity of emotions. Resultantly, the listener can find more rational solution than the one who is experiencing it. Such interactions help a lot in big family systems where everyone has to look after the others and might be helpful in bigger and diverse societies in Western world.