“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it” – Actor Robin Williams (1921-2014)

The quotation above is one of my favourites from the late and great actor Robin Williams who committed suicide after battling depression.

Depression is one of those illness that cannot be seen so is often overlooked. Also, there is still stigma attached to depression within both the South Asian and wider community. Some people fear losing their jobs as a result of suffering something that can sometimes be perceived as a ‘weakness’.

Many people within the South Asian community fear what other family members will think and what society will say, which ultimately leads to many members of the community not speaking up about depression.

Joined by Presenter and Journalist Attika Choudhary, YouTuber Parle Patel, and Consultant Psychiatrist Rahul Bhattacharya, we decided we did want to talk about and opened up the conversation on Zee Companion. And we were extremely grateful that many of you picked up the phone and joined the conversation too.

Talking, Parle explained, is the first step to recovery. Having suffered depression, Parle said explained that there are many taboo topics within the South Asian community, and depression is one of them. It is often difficult to discuss.

As hilarious as he is, I wanted to know he journeyed out of depression and become a YouTube hit? Parle explained he began to do things he enjoyed again, and kept busy.

Dr Rahul told us more about depression. He described depression as more than sadness and persistent. It sticks with you and is progressive. Unlike sadness, which you can come out of, copy with and find a distraction from so that it eventually goes away, depression stays for more than two weeks.

If you stop enjoying the things you once loved, this should ring alarm bells.

Attika Choudhary and Parle Patel spent nine months creating a short film to highlight depression with the aim of encouraging people to talk about it openly.

The short film is based on a true story of a family in which the father suffers depression. Amar, the son, recognises his father is depressed and begins to develop anxiety as he does not know how to help him.

The nephew living with the family begins to receive low grades at school as he cannot understand why the father is feeling this way. Yet the mother/wife in the house denies there even being a problem because she is worried about what society will think.

In the space of such a short film, there is a myriad of problems occurring at all levels of the family dynamic. The film also portrays how different generations react to depression. The older generation brush it under the carpet whereas the generation of today want to find solutions.

Attika explained that when migrants first came to the UK, they did not know what depression is. They came to make money and all of their time was focused on this. So, depression was an alien concept to them.

She went on to say that family networks are extremely important. Children must also speak to their family members and loved ones rather than shy away from the issue.

One of our viewers phoned in and said that part of the campaign should be encouraging the younger generation to resist being swept up by the tide of demand when it comes to their working lives, which I thought was an excellent point.

We are living in an age where jobs are more mentally demanding, and pressure comes at us from all ends. Dr Rahul conversed with our caller and agreed that parents should encourage their children to maintain a balanced life. They should teach them that earning money is not the most important thing.

Attika agreed with this viewpoint and said parents have a responsibility to tell their children to live a balanced life and be less demanding as parents such as having expectations that cause pressure.

Responsibility is a key word. Who else has responsibility when it comes to preventing depression and helping those suffering from it? Attika stated that families have a responsibility and that people should surround themselves with supportive people.

Sometimes, medication is not the answer as it can work for some people but not for others. Research has shown that taking medication alongside receiving therapy is the best long-term cure for depression.

Talking therapy is extremely important and useful, Dr Rahul explained. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the official government therapy, focuses on targeting problems. It makes you link your feelings to what you think and do to then change that pattern accordingly.

Many South Asians do not talk about such issues and are not accustomed to receiving therapy, but Dr Rahul really encouraged it.

Breaking stigma around depression is really key in encouraging and making that step towards people talking about depression. Parle argued that people pit men against women and state that only women suffer depression. Instead, we need to break gender stereotypes, look at depression as a global community and deal with it in a human way.

Dr Rahul agreed with this and said that it is really important you first and foremost recognise depression, and recognise it as an illness like any other. “You are not ashamed of having diabetes. You are not ashamed of having glaucoma. So why be ashamed of having depression?”

Most people recover from depression so ask for help because there is hope.

And I will leave on this note: if you are suffering depression, do not be ashamed or afraid. Seek help so that you can help yourself and ultimately live a happy life.