One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. – Seneca
I’d like to share one of the most significant insights that I’ve gained in life so far via this post. It’s about how tremendously effective and life-transforming the two simple words “I Understand” can be – even if they’re not spoken out aloud!
Have written earlier on my experience with depression, what I learnt from it is that social support is extremely important, and that having understanding people around you can make a tremendous difference.
However, this is not applicable only to depression or mental illness, but any tough situation that one goes through life. Recently, according to a meta-analytic study published this year (2020) in a psychiatry journal called JAMA Psychiatry, having this kind of social support and being well adjusted into your social network also improves your long-term immunity against all kinds of diseases! Therefore, all human beings have great resilience and the capacity to bounce back from the worst kind of crises, provided they’re in a positive and supportive social environment or have some good relationships. Apparently, when one is in trouble, just being in the presence of a supportive and understanding person who doesn’t judge, question or belittle you but just calmly “understands” is enough to give you a lot of strength!
This has been supported by other research as well; for example, in the paper titled “Social Support and Resilience to Stress” in the journal “From Neurobiology to Clinical Practice” in May 2007. The abstract of the article reads: “Numerous studies indicate social support is essential for maintaining physical and psychological health. The harmful consequences of poor social support and the protective effects of good social support in mental illness have been well documented. Social support may moderate genetic and environmental vulnerabilities and confer resilience to stress……..”
One of the biggest hurdles in treating mental illness is the lack of understanding regarding the issue and the resulting absence of social support, especially in India. This is quite distressing despite the widespread prevalence of depression. We must start considering mental illnesses to be just like other physical diseases like diabetes, blood pressure or even cancer. They’re all physiological abnormalities of different kinds, that can be treated in appropriate ways.
In fact, a lot of famous personalities suffered from or dealt with depression, so instead of considering it a stigma, one could consider it a co-morbidity that exists along with genius 😉 Sharing the list at the end of the article.
I’ll talk in more detail later about how the people around me made a difference or made it difficult for me to cope with my condition. However, we cannot judge those who are not as empathetic very harshly because there is very little awareness and information on this issue, and a lot of social stigma associated with it. But the purpose behind this article is to urge you all to be more “understanding” – towards mentally ill individuals or towards anyone going through a tough time. Because that will undoubtedly make a huge difference. You don’t have to do much, spend anything – just be around without judging, berating or blaming them for whatever they’re going through.
I’d like to sum up by giving the advice to look for “understanding ability” as one of the main qualities to look for when you search for a friend, partner, teacher, mentor etc. 🙂 😉
PS: Famous people who suffered from major Depression: