According to The World Health Organization, an estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression (*). The most common mental disorders in the US is major depression (**). The total number of people died by suicide in the case of severe depression in Vietnam is over 36,000 every year (***). Despite the prevalence of depression, not many people really talk about it out loud.

I had a friend who committed suicide at a very young age. After my friend’s death, I couldn’t stop asking myself over and over again: “Why do people end their life by suicide? What happens in their heads?”. Thanks to ” Reasons to stay alive”, I finally understand what it means to suffer alone. Reading Matt Haig’s story is like stepping into the darkest depths of despair when you feel emotionally trapped with no hope and no future:

“I was living in Spain – in one of the more sedate and beautiful corners of the island of Ibiza. It was September. ….The sea was right there, just below the cliff. And the cliff edge was only a few steps away. No more than twenty, I would say. The only plan I had was to take twenty-one steps in that direction…. The villa was behind me. The nicest place I had ever lived. In front of me, the most glorious view I had ever seen. … And yet, the most beautiful view in the world could not stop me from wanting to kill myself.”

Andrew Solomon-  a writer, lecturer and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, talked about his past experience with depression on  as a loss of vitality:  

Everything there was to do seemed like too much work. I would come home and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends, I would think, “What a lot of people that is to have to call back.” Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross.” (****)

Depression results from a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors. It can also result from emotional trauma, early losses, stressful environments, genetics and medical problems.  In addition to the support from doctors and psychologists, Matt Haig shares some particular helpful ways that might help you overcome depression:

  • Sunshine: Have you ever heard of  Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – one type of depression that is most severe in winter time?  Researchers haven’t fully discover the exact cause of SAD but exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin which is associated with boosting mood.
  • Reading: People with depression often find themselves caught in a vicious cycle where they feel stuck. Reading is like a movement as you always find new chapters and leave the old ones behind.
  • Doing things that you are afraid to do and survive: If you are afraid to go outside, go outside. If you are afraid of confined spaces,  take the elevator. When you get depressed, fear is very common and it’s  a production of your own mind. Once you overcome that fear, you will master of your thoughts and move towards positive thinking.
  • Going to a new place: When living in a familiar environment, your mind only focuses on itself, but when you go to a new place, you will focus more on the outside world and that is good for people with depression.
  • Exercise: Running, yoga … are good ways to provide a distraction from the way you’re feeling. It also releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in your body.
  • Looking at names of famous people who suffered depression but have other things that are great going on in their lives might give you a light of hope. Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Billy Joel, Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Winona Ryder and Robbie Williams, …are all mentioned on Matt’s list.
  • Love: Both Matt and Andrew reached out to family member for support. Having support from people who love you and those you love will help you see life with love. It’s a great therapy for depression.

To assess whether you could be suffering from depression, you can take a test here.

(*) Click here for more details.

(**) Click here for more details.

(***) Click here to read the article (Vietnamese only).

(****) Click here to view the full talk.

*Please do aware that all information on my site is not meant to take the place of advice by doctor, licensed dietician-nutritionist, psychologist or other licensed or registered professional.


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