Would you befriend a classmate who’s notorious for mood swings? Would you reach out to him, thus saving him from destructive mental depression?

In the Face of Depression

Imagine yourself back in school.

Imagine yourself during the best or worst years of your youth.

Your daily life consists of little more than school and hanging out with a preferred group of schoolmates. After lessons, you loiter about in school, or make short excursions to nearby places. Once in a while, say twice a semester, you go somewhere further, a celebration of the everything and nothing that is adolescence. Regarding your buddies, some of them get on your nerves now and then. Wait, the whole group actually teases you more than anyone else. But given any choice, you would still prefer to be with this lot. You can’t imagine how days would be without their company. Despite their incessant pranks and gimmicks, they still feel to be more tolerable than the rest of the world.

More tolerable, that is, outside of those moments. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just refer to him as X. X is generally an easy-going and pleasant person. He’s also non-competitive over most things. Problem though, X has this tendency to ever so regularly slip into one of his moods. When that happens, he starts to talk weird. Nothing explicit or offensive, really. Just out of the blue, half-serious musings about death and suffering. Once done, he withdraws. He vanishes for a day or two. When he returns, he’s seemingly his old self. Till it begins all over again.

Like a schedule.

Like a ritual.

Let me ask. What would you do if you have a friend like X? Would you be concerned or annoyed? Would you be worried, or would you conclude he’s just a weirdo, and beyond a number of times of him acting weird, start avoiding him?

If you are the “leader” of your group, would you soon be discouraging X’s return to your cohort? Not just because he’s so bizarre and unpredictable, but also because you don’t want to risk other people leaving your gang?

I’d tell you what I’d do. What I’d likely do. I’d make an effort to avoid X. I wouldn’t do it in an antagonistic way, and believe me, neither would I gossip about him. I’d simply distance myself. I’d start sending the clear message that we, well, just don’t “click.” Deep down, I’m likely to suspect something is wrong with X, but the fact that he’s always returns would convince me it’s probably nothing worth worrying about. If forced to go out together as a group, I’d maintain a distance from him. In situations when it’s not possible to avoid conversation, I’d likely just stick to nodding. Noncommittal replies and grunts while racking my brains for an excuse to move away.

That’s what I’d do.

That’s what I suspect most people would do. Pardon me for being presumptuous.

Therefore, if you’re a victim of depression, if you’re bipolar or similar, please don’t come near me. Chances are, I’d be contributing to your reasons for a swift end.

Kakeru! Come Back to Us!

I watched Orange late last year after reading so much about it online. Before all else, allow me to say the series deserves every accolade it received. It was superb in terms of storytelling, voice acting, and production quality.

Orange was also, hands-down, one of the most disturbing anime I’ve ever watched. Far more, far more so than any of those gory, macabre, horror-themed ones.

If you’re unfamiliar, the story is about a group of high school students racing against time to prevent the suicide of a classmate named Kakeru. There’s a time travel element, but outside of that, the whole story is really about handling depression. In a nutshell, the students failed to detect Kakeru’s condition, resulting in his suicide. When given the chance at another go, the students went all out to save their friend. They were determined not to repeat the worst mistake of their lives.

Here’s what disturbed me so much. The anime was frightfully realistic in its portrayal of Kakeru’s depression. No over-the-top scream fests or fist fights here. Just repetition of how Kakeru kept succumbing to dark thoughts no matter how hard his friends tried. In forum threads about the series, a lot of viewers shared how this was exactly what they went through when battling adolescent depression. In the fact of such frustrating behaviour, and with no prior warning of the outcome, how would I react? Would I do what the students originally did? Would I shun “Kakeru” and consider him a strange person I do not want anything to do with?

I would. I definitely would.

In fact, even with prior warning, I might still distance myself. Judge me whichever way you would, but I do not feel I have the tenacity or patience to handle extreme mood fluctuations and withdrawals. At best, I might inform someone about my suspicions. I might approach an elder, such as a teacher. Beyond that, I’d considered myself as having “done my part.” I wouldn’t desire further involvement. Heck, what am I saying? I would dread further involvement.

Awful, isn’t it?

Yet, wouldn’t you do likewise? Especially if this person isn’t a friend to begin with. Just an acquaintance. Some colleague, a classmate, a neighbour three houses away.

In my opinion, I think it’s just human tendency to avoid those who are weird and infuriating. It’s how we protect ourselves, how we evade conflict. But in our course of doing so, in our aversion of frustration, have we ever contributed to someone’s demise? Contributed not as in facilitated suicide, but indirectly, justified it?

It’s a chilling question. One that lingered in my head for quite a while after watching Orange.

Someday when I find the courage, I’d give this deeper thought.

 

Unlike what most would expect, Kakeru grins and laughs a lot when with his friends. But he’s totally different when alone. Another realistic portrayal of depression.
Unlike what most people would expect, Kakeru grins and laughs a lot when with his friends. However, he’s a totally different person when alone. I feel to be a very realistic portrayal of depression. (Picture from Anime News Network)
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About Scribbling Geek

The geek divides his free time between video games, movies, anime, and attempting to write decent short stories. Oh, and trying not to sprain his fingers from playing demisemiquavers on his Electone.

3 thoughts on “In the Face of Depression

  1. That’s a pretty hot topic in Italy, right now, as three young people’s suicides have made headlines:

    1 – A man in his 30s hanged himself after writing a long and detailed letter about his dissatisfation with his precarious professional condition, the long series of temporary jobs, etc. – a victim of unemployment or of depression?

    2 – A schoolboy jumped out of a window after his mother caught him with a minimal dose of hashish and called the police – he was just sixteen, good at sports and a decent student: was it right to make him feel like a criminal for such a micro-offense, when newspapers tell us about corrupt politicians and murderers every single day?

    3 – Finally, a mentally ill girl committed suicide by jumping out of his father’s car while the latter was driving – could she have been given better treatments for her condition?

    And all of these took place in a week or so!

    And now, all of these people’s relatives, friends, etc. are wondering if they could have done more to save their lives…

    1. Tragically, SG had a couple of teen suicides of late too. There was a high-profile one with a boy leaping from his apartment after he was arrested for molest. There were also cases of teens killing themselves that horrid way after collecting disappointing exam results.

      These aside, I think the terrible thing about depression is that it’s hardly as noticeable as we would hope for it to be. From personal experiences, the symptoms are almost invisible unless you are out to notice them. The only thing we can hope for is a little more attention and understanding by people towards their friends and relative. One teen suicide is one too many.

      1. Exactly – and probably social stigma plays a role as well: if people were encouraged to talk about their problems, maybe they wouldn’t choose to die…

Thanks for commenting!