Picture this: you’re on holidays. On the beautiful Coral Coast of Fiji, to be precise. You’re staying at a 5-star resort on its own island. The weather is absolutely beautiful, and the scenery stunning. You have delicious food. You have some of your favourite people around you. You’re doing all sorts of really cool, unique and relaxing things—things you may never experience again. And yet . . . something is missing. You feel empty.
Every day, at least six Australians will take their own lives, and at least 30 others will attempt to. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-24. We’re more likely to die from suicide than we are from skin cancer. Almost half of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness within their lives, with 65% not being able to access adequate treatment. Despite all we know about depression, anxiety and other disorders, there’s still an incredible stigma attached.
Depression is a truly horrible feeling. It’s not just being sad (though that is a really big part of it). It’s feeling guilty for feeling sad, it’s feeling anxious, it’s feeling desolate, it’s feeling overwhelmed, it’s feeling lonely, it’s feeling like no one understands, it’s feeling like things that once did or should bring you joy simply don’t, it’s feeling like you’re worthless. It’s hating yourself. It’s hating everyone else too, sometimes. The worst part of it is all these emotions are locked up inside of yourself. You don’t want to tell anyone, because you don’t want to bring them down, or you’re afraid they’ll judge you. You’re afraid they’ll simply say “cheer up”, like it were that simple. Or worse, that they’ll say you’re seeking attention. Things become both less and more important. You don’t want to feel like this. You know it’s illogical – but you can’t help it, and people who haven’t experienced it simply don’t understand that.
I’m sitting in my hotel room right now. Outside, the sun is shining. The palm trees are swaying pleasantly in the wind, and I can see little birds singing happily. There are beautiful flowers in the trees, and scattered on the grass. A carpet of frangipanis and other bright red flowers I don’t know the name of. The air is warm, whispering alluring secrets of happiness, and I can hear the sound of people laughing and children shrieking with joy. My family and friends are among them.
Nothing bad has happened. In fact, it’s been quite a wonderful holiday. I’ve explored caves, been immersed within Fijian culture, been treated to massages and manicures, snorkelled and seen beautiful fish, and been able to spend my days lounging around the beach. It sounds great, right? And I know it’s great. I know I should feel happy. I know I should feel lucky, and privileged, and just relax. But it’s not that simple. I’m sad, and everyone else around me is happy. They’re saying it’s the best holiday of their lives, and here I am, not exactly caring if I were to not wake up.
Maybe it’s just a spout of weakness, and maybe I’ll go outside, and all of this will be a bad dream. Maybe I’ll be able to shut it out. Focus on the small things. The good things. The sun is warm. I don’t have assignments due. The geckos are adorable. I bought a shell turtle wearing a hat and glasses. Those things are cool. Those things are good. Those are the things you have to focus on in order to not lose your mind.
Depression doesn’t go on holidays just because you do. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel sad, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that. Talk to your loved ones—don’t bottle it up. Remember to ground yourself, take deep breaths and do small things you like and enjoy. If you think one of your loved ones is depressed, do not judge them. Do not criticise them. Do not get frustrated at their sadness, and do not tell them to “cheer up”; just be there for them. Be with them. Don’t give up on them. While they may not show it, I assure you, they’ll love you for it. Don’t become another statistic.