He* was 19-year-old when his mother, his confidante passed away. At the age of 21, he was medically diagnosed with depression. This brave young man had his path in life laden with thorns and a multitude of hurdles but he overcame them step by step.

He fought against the dreadful mental illness and still continues to keep fighting it with the unwavering support of his family who were understanding. This boy with big aspirations is just one of the 50 million Pakistanis who are suffering from mental disorders, finding themselves trapped in the constricting claws of depression as darkness looms around them like a noose capable of strangulating them.

American Psychiatric Association defines major depression as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It is a mental disorder when prevailed takes over your life and makes even the most mundane of tasks, such as getting out of bed every morning, an ordeal.

Depression, just like innumerable other mental illnesses is influenced by one’s biology and genetics. Serotonin and Norepinephrine are two neurotransmitters, which have a profound influence on our moods and hence an imbalance in either or both is likely to result in depression.

Despite the fact that this mood disorder does indeed have its root deep within the biology of a person, one must keep in mind that society itself plays an unprecedented role in aggravating or diminishing the intensity of the illness. Social injustice, gender inequality, parental/domestic abuse, harrowing terrorist attacks and abject poverty have all contributed tremendously in making our country a breeding ground for a multitude of mental illnesses such as depression.

Teenage depression rates are escalating beyond comprehension as those who fail in high school or cope with the added academic and other forms of stress productively. They feel distant from their loved ones as if no one understands what they are going through. Sometimes, due to the lack of awareness they themselves fail to gauge the gravity of the situation.

In October 2016, an NGO reported that about 53 percent of the students in leading private school chains are addicted to various kinds of drugs in Islamabad alone, thus providing viable proof for the aforementioned assertion. Furthermore, drug abuse is just one of the distressing ills that becomes rampant when acute depression goes overlooked and is trivialised. Suicide rates have sky-rocketed in recent years with tortured souls ending their lives in an attempt to escape this world they see as a prison.

Regardless of the fact that depression is an extremely pressing concern, which is spreading to each and every crevice throughout the globe, it is somehow one of the most stigmatised illnesses to date. The mere act of holding a meaningful conversation about it is likely to rile up certain individuals for whom even talking about this grave issue is an impermissible taboo. They prefer to battle their demons on their own and accept the feeling of forlornness instead of baring their souls to someone who could be of immense help.

Depressed souls are further agonised and tormented when scrutinised under society’s magnifying glass. Taken as exhibiting profound weakness coupled with the spews of hurtful slurs they are subjected to, further accentuates the bone-crippling anxiety and despondency. The added obliviousness, indifference and ignorance displayed by the families of those who are suffering effectively exacerbate the problem at hand. Some do not even take into account the glaring signs of depression as according to them, “it isn’t real if you can’t see it”.

Depression, just like most other mental disorders pierces its way through a person’s soul either sets him aflame from inside or turns his insides frigid and numb. The person is likely to appear unscathed on the surface but deep within he is being plagued by extreme dejection.

According to newspaper reports, there are just 400 trained psychiatrists present in our country to cater the psychological well beings of the people. For a country with a population of over 190 million this number is extremely meager and insufficient. This brings into consideration that our country as a whole may be lacking the resources needed to overcome this catastrophic issue.

Resultantly, even the people who manage to disregard the stigma surrounding mental illness may not be able to gain access to the right type of facilities needed for steady recovery. The situation does indeed appear to be rather dire, it may seem as if all hope is lost and that there is nothing that can be done now but that is not true! It is never too late to strive for a change.

Breaking the stigma surrounding the existence as well as treatment of mental illnesses will be a long and arduous journey.  The first step on the road to recovery is acceptance that depression is truly an illness that cannot be dismissed or overlooked. Anyone who is suffering should be made aware that there are indeed plenty of treatment plans that can be followed and that each person reacts differently to various methods. Some may decide to opt for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), while others may find antidepressants such as SSRIs to be relatively more effective.

Each and every person should have access to mental hospitals where they can meet professionals who are there to help them maneuver their way through the nebulous blur. Providing the required resources is easier said than done hence, it is for this reason that we should try and make it a point to support existing initiatives that are focusing on alleviation of mental diseases. Talk to anyone who has partially or completely recovered from depression and they will guide you, even small things count. What does this mean? It quite literally translates to how even the most subtle of gestures can do wonders for someone enveloped in sheer darkness.

The brave survivor of depression *referred in the first paragraph* stated, “Loved ones can try to give positive reassurances, they can encourage us to go out and complete basic tasks.” This dialogue further reinforces that we must take it upon ourselves to lookout for someone who may by implicitly showing signs of being in need of a shoulder to cry on and an open ear devoid of pity.

Depression is a ruthless monster, which is notorious for leaving the person it attacks writhing in emotional agony. The least we can do is aid the individual in his battle against it. We can give it our all to be someone’s beacon of hope when their world is engulfed in darkness.

*Name Withheld