You Can’t Eat Away Depression, Because Depression Eats You Away
Remember that time when we loved quoting the phrase ‘You’re what you eat’ without realizing the privilege that comes attached with such words?
Turns out that while many of us are actively trying to unlearn baseless generalizations, there are popular celebrities who do not even think twice before asserting their views about sensitive topics like mental health.
As a guest in a morning show, Urwa Hocane said that the only reason for having depression is the food one eats. She also took a dismissive tone about depression and said that there are many problems and people keep saying they have got depression or mental ‘disease’, while it is all because of the food and no other reason.
Her sister, Mawra Hocane, who was also a guest at the show, agreed with Urwa, saying “it is what you put in your body.”
When the sister-duo was called out on social media, Mawra, instead of understanding why it was inappropriate to say that went on to justify her words by posting screenshots from a Google search to prove that inclusion of certain kind of items in one’s diet are ‘likely’ to cause anxiety and depression. The word ‘likely’ is important here because nowhere does it say that it’s the sole cause, as said by the actors.
Now let’s just take a look at how uninformed their opinion is. Yes, improving diet can help people who are going through depression or anxiety but it is not as simple as it sounds.
Firstly, people opening up about their mental health is a step in the right direction and being dismissive about this approach shows that it will take some more time for some celebrities to understand the nuances of mental health. In a country where mental health is not even considered important, it is highly irresponsible to take depression so lightly.
Not so long ago, Aftab Iqbal, a popular TV host had made a mockery of mental health issues by showing a 31-year old woman having ‘hysteria’ because she was not married. Such statements are not just derogatory and misogynist rather they are also dangerous because these people have a lot of following, and they have a platform to ensure that people start breaking taboos instead of holding onto them. Yet, what we often see is people either passing uninformed opinions or making fun of the issue itself.
According to Dr Haroon Ahmed of Pakistan Association of Mental Health, over 34 per cent of Pakistan’s population was estimated to be suffering from mental illnesses with majority of the people unable to access treatment owing to the stigma.
Mawra or other celebrities, need to understand that in a country which has a large segment of its population trying to survive by getting food twice a day, posting Google searches about consuming meat, pastries, refines cereals seems like a cruel joke. People who are born in households struggling to survive are exposed to several mental health issues at a young age and limited or no access to treatment doesn’t help them either.
Even if there are people who can afford to eat these things, depression and anxiety do not bid adieu if you remove these items from the diet. In fact, there are so many people who do not consume them or workout and yet are unable to recover because mental health is not as simple as ABC.
Depression is much complicated
While there are people who would continue to undermine mental health, there are many who speak about their journey to combat depression.
Singer Momina Mustehsan, actor Noman Javaid and Juggan Kazim have spoken up about their experiences as to how it can affect self-esteem and that it is not a phase rather it’s much complicated.
Speaking about his struggles, Haider*, a writer by profession, says that he too had many misconceptions about depression.
“We know that it’s not just sadness or being low rather it’s a whole process. One psychologist told me to exercise, and I joined MMA, and I did feel better. That said, it’s extremely important to understand that the approach to address depression varies from one person to another, and we cannot see depression in isolation. What worked for me might not work for someone else,” he says.
Haider further opines that dealing with depression requires a multi-pronged approach. “One can’t rely solely on exercise or dietary changes or even therapy too,” he adds.
“I feel people who don’t have depression can never understand what depression looks like. While I may not judge someone’s sincerity, I do think people who do not have mental health issues should not pull the leg of those who talk about depression or anxiety because such attitude is detrimental and pushes them into reclusiveness. If you can’t understand it, please don’t underestimate it,” he says.
Nasreen, who is a stay-at-home mother shared that it took her a while to understand mental health issues despite facing them for a long time. As someone who regularly watches morning shows, she felt that even though many shows are discussing mental health, not many are equipped to use the right language.
“I think people do look up to celebrities and get affected by their words. People will never share that they go to see a doctor or take medicine because they will be labeled as not normal which ultimately leads to isolation. Saying that changing diet can pull one out of depression is just like saying that praying five times a day can cure your mental health. Now, while meditation can work for some, for others it would be extremely difficult to even think of it,” she said.
If only it were that easy to combat depression by ditching some items and opting for others, life would have been easier but in reality, it is depression which eats, nay gnaws you away and it is never the other way around.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.