When I was deeply suicidal, the one question people asked me the most was why would you kill yourself for someone you dated for only 4 weeks? They tried to talk me out of my depression by saying “oh get over him”, or “this girl got dumped after being with this guy for 7 years, she moved on, you should too.” People thought that I wanted to die because of “love”, which in my case was a very petty reason. In fact, when someone just committed suicide, the biggest question is why, it seems like they need to have a reason to end their life, the reason has to be huge in order to be understandable, such as the death of a child or a bankruptcy. Well, this is a big misconception.
I am pretty sure many of you have felt depressed before. But would you say, your depression was caused by situational factors? And once the external problems have been dealt with, you would feel better right away. In such case depression is a mental state. It is temporary. It’s relatively easy to treat, or for some people, they go away on a vacation and come back being happy again. Depression of such nature is like a cold; our body is able to recover from it spontaneously. On the other hand, Depression with a strong genetic predisposition, like the one I have, is a mental illness. It is an illness that has a name, Major Depression (Unipolar Disorder) or Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder). It is a permanent condition that cannot be cured but can only be treated by medication.
There are many differences between the two.
1) Trigger of Depression. For common depression, people usually have a good reason to be depressed, whereas for a Depression Disorder, people do not need to have a reason to commit suicide. Some person would feel suicidal simply because they do not have a healthy lifestyle. They smoke and drink excessively, they lack sleep on a regular basis and party all the time. If there is a genetic predisposition, their Depression will be easily triggered when a trivial obstacle comes their way.
2) Differences in the severity of symptoms. For common depression, the symptoms are emotional and psychological; it has to do with people’s feelings being hurt. People want to die, but they have a choice, they could choose to end their life or carry on living. That was the case in my second episode of Depression. The reason of my Depression was mainly about my physical disability, though the symptoms were severe, I still had control over them, and thankfully, I did not hurt myself again. Whereas for a depression disorder, the symptoms are much more physical and medical in nature, the symptoms are impossible to be conquered by will powers. During my first episode of Depression, I didn’t just want to die, I need to die. My body was shutting down after not being able to sleep at all for over 2 months.
3) Family History. A depression disorder usually has a family history of mental illness, any type of mental illness. In my case, everyone on my father’s side is perfectly healthy. They are happy and optimistic people. The person that has a problem is my mom’s mom. My maternal grandma suffers from anxiety disorder, her thoughts are always irrational and she doesn’t sleep very much, averagely 3 or 4 hours a day.
4) Age of onset. Common depression really depends on the onset of a stressor. But for mental illnesses, the typical age of onset of a full-blown episode is between 18 to 24 years old, the ages when hormones are going viral; though more and more kids as young as 8 or 9 years old have reported of feeling suicidal. Depression is also prevalent among women who have just given birth or during menopause. It always happens when our body is going through changes. Mental health is part of a person’s physical health. When the rest of our body is healthy, we sleep well, eat well and do exercise; our mental health will also improve.
5) Treatment. To treat a common depression, a person might be temporarily placed on anti-depressant or receive psychotherapy or consulting. For some people “time is the best remedy”. Whereas in my case, I personally think that medication is the only effective treatment. Because it is a medical condition, it is not a psychological condition. It’s like someone who is born with type 1 diabetes and they have to rely on insulin for life. People like me, we are born with a deficient, and therefore we need to rely on psychotropic medication to restore our mental health.