When your sadness comes, like snow, with the season

SEPTEMBER 30 — Japanese actress Yuko Takeuchi passed unexpectedly last Sunday.

Her death is a tragedy but what is also tragic to me is how callously media from her own country reported her death, blaring “suicide” in the headlines and describing how she died and who found her.

Suicidal contagion and ideation are real things — it is irresponsible for the media to report on suicides the way they did. 

Describing the exact manner a celebrity committed suicide often leads to copycat acts and sometimes triggers someone already vulnerable to take his/her own life.

I refuse to speculate what could have been behind Takeuchi’s death but as autumn approaches and winter beckons, I fear there will be more deaths to suicides especially in colder countries.

While September brings fall colours and a break from summer’s harsh sun, it also means a dangerous time for those afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is just like how it sounds like — a crushing, suffocating low mood experience that leaves you, well, sad.

I would know as SAD has been a longtime companion of mine to the point where, if I’m feeling generally exhausted and inexplicably weepy I check the calendar first.

SAD and major depression don’t feel different, as I also know from personal experience, but dealing with them both at the same time is a lot to handle. 

It is also hard to explain to people. Why, in a country where it’s either hot or wet, do people like me still get a disorder that is usually more common in climes with autumn and winter?

Perhaps it’s in the genes. My ancestors, after all, did come from countries with seasons. I wonder if not having to deal with harsh winters felt like a blessing when they made the move to the lands where I was born.

The general prescription, besides medication, is to wake up early, try and soak some sun and exercise if you can.

Now the tricky bit is getting yourself out of bed in the first place. My September has been mostly spent in bed, sleeping all morning and afternoon, only waking up to eat and work, before I go right back to bed again.

Excessive sleeping is not the best coping mechanism but at least it’s better than alcohol, nicotine or other self-destructive behaviour that I’m thankfully too old to be attracted to anymore.

I think it’s harder too, in this pandemic, to cope with this new reality. Malaysians are lucky enough that for the most part life hasn’t changed too drastically now besides having to stay further apart and wear masks in public.

The younger set, like in other countries, are however feeling quelled in their desire to socialise at night with clubs being shuttered and even dinner establishments closed early.

It’s harder to feel hopeful; no one expected to suddenly find themselves living in a pandemic movie that doesn’t have a neat Hollywood ending.

What I’m getting at really is that we need to care more about our mental health, about the mental health of people near us and really, mental health in general.

There is a lot of suffering we’re not seeing, shuttered in our houses against an invisible enemy. If there’s one thing we probably should be doing more of is to check up on each other instead of hiding in our pandemic-proof bubbles.

The world might be falling apart but there’s no reason to start letting people do the same. If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown us is that the human connection is a precious, essential thing and we should try harder to keep it alive.

*If you are lonely, distressed or having negative thoughts, Befrienders offers free and confidential support 24 hours a day. Contact Befrienders KL at 03-79568145 or 04-281 5161/1108 in Penang, or 05-547 7933/7955 in Ipoh or email [email protected]

** This is the personal opinion  of the columnist.

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