Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Can Depression Be Grounds For Assisted Suicide?

A bleak topic, but an interesting one to explore nonetheless.

The 24-year-old Belgian lady, known only as Laura, hit the headlines having been granted an assisted suicide – a controversial decision as, aside from suffering for years from clinical depression, she is otherwise physically healthy.

Image credit: StepanFoto
As someone who has dealt with and come back from extreme depression and suicidal thoughts, this makes me uneasy…almost as if they're agreeing that someone’s life is worthless and that it’s the end of the road in terms of receiving help for depression. It all seems really clinical, soulless and "Evil Doctor".

As human beings, we should be kind and compassionate to each other. Not encouraging people to give up.

Some would argue that, in this case literally, putting someone out of their misery is kind, especially if the alternative is a suicide attempt which, depending on which method you choose, can easily go wrong and leave the person dealing with the ramifications of a botched suicide attempt.

I think the argument for euthanasia is understandable for people with terminal illnesses, as it’s seen more as palliative care for someone who is going to have to face death very soon anyway. But for someone who is psychically healthy, it’s difficult to support, even if they are sick of fighting chronic depression and have lost all hope.

Let’s look at Laura’s story a little more closely:

"Laura told De Morgen she was the result of an unplanned pregnancy… her father was alcoholic and after a troubled early childhood she moved in with her grandparents."

However, she also says:

"Even though my childhood certainly contributed to my suffering, I am convinced that I had had this death wish even though I grew up with a quiet, stable family."

Hmm. While a chemical imbalance in the brain can leave people more susceptible to depression, as well as other risk factors such as high-intelligence, creative thinking and if depression and other mental health conditions run in your family, circumstances such as that can’t have helped and were bound to have had a long-lasting psychological effect on her.

Who isn’t going to feel like their life is worthless, when their parents flat-out tell them they were unwanted? Parents who then spiral into self-destructive behaviour, forfeiting their parental responsibilities in the process? Our brain reacts in certain ways to our environment and I don’t doubt that difficult circumstances are a large contributor to major depression. I’m sure it leaves you more susceptible to more debilitating conditions later in life too.

Believe me, I am all too aware of just how bleak clinical depression is. I sometimes wonder why I am so pessimistic, moody and irritable. Then I see what my mother’s like and I realise that both nature and nurture put me at a slight disadvantage.

You see depression, as well as more extreme mental health conditions, runs in my family - two of my siblings were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and one sadly passed away as a direct result of his mental health condition. At the same time, I spent my childhood in foster care.

So, as you can see, the odds were against me in terms of making it to adulthood unscathed. But I think this puts me in a unique position to be able to offer my opinion and advice.

I look at my mum (I'm pretty sure she's bipolar) but I don’t resign myself to the same fate as her... because crucially, I have one thing that she lacked at my age: self-awareness. My mentality is very different to hers, despite similar habits.

You don’t think my lack of stability, parental unit or support-system has affected me and left me feeling completely alone in this world?

Image credit: Alexas_Fotos
It has, but I always managed to just crack on with things because I refuse to continue the cycle of dysfunction. I started to struggle when I hit my mid-twenties though, and I’m still dealing with trying to manage my extreme downers and controlling my anger and expectations. Mentally though, I’m a lot stronger than I was. I’ve also noticed some physical symptoms of depression manifest themselves (unsurprising, after years of dealing with depression), so I’m even more determined to fight it.

But to be honest I think most people, if not all, struggle when they’re in their twenties. That’s why it makes me uneasy that this lady has successfully been granted an assisted suicide - at 24, she has the rest of her life ahead of her. Who knows if she would feel the same in a few years time, when her emotions are more settled or if she’s in a different place in her life?

Some of the smartest, happiest and interesting people have had many colourful experiences. It makes them unique and believe it or not, people gravitate towards that.

I hate to throw clich├ęs at you, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There is also at least one person in this world who gives a crap about you. And if there isn’t, you will find someone who does, if you take on board practical advice and put in the effort to make some changes. The world is full of endless possibilities – jobs, relationships, friendships it’s all swings and roundabouts.

The problem is that no-one tells you that life is more hard than easy. But these bad experiences shape you into a better, stronger person. At least if you have the ability to look at a situation, reflect and LEARN from it.

Which I think a lot of depressed people are capable of doing, as I’ve noticed most depressed folk are the intelligent, over-analytical or observant types. Stupid people are happy people, as the saying goes. That’s why bad circumstances are felt worse by those who suffer from depression: they analyse it to death or can accurately suss a situation out, which makes them more likely to get depressed in the first place.

I feel like all my experiences have made me a tougher yet more compassionate person. I generally have more confidence in myself and what I have to offer the world. Weird I know, but if you can conquer depression it restores your faith... in yourself.

I guess I can only speak from my personal experience as someone who, while prone to pessimism and noticing and picking-apart negative situations or people’s annoying traits, still has things in my life that I find enjoyable, a respite from the lull of chronic depression. It may be a temporary fix, it may be a distraction but it means I can feel happy and find things to look forward to. Also, if I’m depressed because of a particular circumstance, I know it will soon pass and I just have to feel it.

If there is truly nothing in this world that you enjoy and you’re apathetic when it comes to family, friendships or relationships I guess all I can say is, if you’re able to feel negative feelings so intensely, then happy thoughts and feelings are within reach. At least TRY to shift your mind-set from a negative to a positive one, before you give up. There are things in life that are enjoyable and it’s these things that we need to focus on.

Don’t let the negativity win. Because that’s like letting morons with this view win:

An unsympathetic response to depression
Read the original article here: "Woman commits suicide after struggling with being unmarried and without children by 30" - Metro, 11/02/2015

I have had idiots telling me to just "get over it". Even people who care about me will tell me in a nice-yet-roundabout way, to stop moping and just get on with things, the best I can.

I don’t begrudge that advice because what else can they say? They don’t understand because they’ve learnt to block overwhelming emotions out. Which means maybe I can too. I take on board their maturity and experience and it’s a kick of up the bum to stop wallowing and find ways to make myself feel happy and be more productive.

It also helps that I’ve met people who can relate to similar situations, so I know that feeling overwhelmingly sad is pretty normal. But feeling sad for the rest of your life, or worse giving up entirely…it’s just not worth it. Don’t be that train-wreck. Don’t give up. Fight it, and you’ll have the last laugh.

I hate to get all white girl Tumblr on you, but this scene perfectly sums up that sentiment - it's weird how years of watching Grey's Anatomy, and it's only now that I really understand it's adult life themes.

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