The Lede
How Twitter Helped A Young Woman Fight Depression

How Twitter Helped A Young Woman Fight Depression

Sandhya Ravishankar

Sandhya Ravishankar

Zahra Husaini with her grandfather whom she adores (Pic courtesy: Zahra Husaini)

A tweet by Zahra Husaini went viral with Twitterati rallying around the young woman who sang when in the midst of a depressive episode

On March 05, a young girl, Zahra Husaini, suffering from debilitating depression, tweeted this.

The song, the message and the melancholy touched thousands of Twitterati who sent goodwill and words of courage her way.

With 7000 likes, 1300 retweets and close to 900 replies, 21-year-old Zahra’s tweet went viral.

“I honestly did not expect the video to garner as much attention as it did,” Zahra Husaini told The Lede in an email interview. “I’ve posted small covers before on Twitter, as well as Instagram but it never really turned into something this big so I didn’t carry that expectation at all. It was pretty late when I made that video, I was in my apartment and I had been feeling down for quite some time. I had nothing else to do and I felt like being productive instead of just sitting in one place staring at my wall like I had been doing before. I thought it would be nice, and that it would possibly make me feel better about myself after months of procrastinating and general emotions of incompetency. When I saw it go viral I was mostly appalled than anything else. It was endearing to see all the support. People sent me their own stories, as well as words of wisdom. The kindness of strangers can have a strong impact.”

Her story is all too familiar. Of depression, struggling to cope, not recognising it for what it is and suffering the pain of loneliness, a sense of isolation and the inability to feel happiness.

“I’ve struggled with depression periodically over a few years now, but for the longest time I never took the step to do anything about it because I believed I could handle it on my own, and it seemed to come and go which is why I had difficulty realising it to be a problem that needs medical attention,” said Husaini.

“I used to assume it was just in my head and that maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem because after a point of time I would feel normal again. I began seeing a pattern however, and over the past year I became incredibly depressed. I stopped singing, I lost interest in all other hobbies, isolated myself from my friends, and eventually became completely apathetic about all responsibilities including my education.

It was only until a few weeks ago, after I posted that video of myself singing, that I decided to finally seek help from a psychiatrist and began to consider therapy. Since then it has been a slow process, but you have to take it one day at a time I guess.”

Depression is the most common amongst all mental health disorders in India, according to 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey conducted by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences), Bengaluru, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

It constitutes 1.7% of all mental health disorders as per the survey. Worse, only 5% of all those suffering any kind of mental disorder actually sought help.

There are many misconceptions about depression.

Take Zahra Husaini for instance – she was born in Delhi and grew up in Michigan in the United States of America. In 2010, she moved back to Delhi.

She comes from a family of artistes – her father Danish Husaini, actor and director, runs theatre company The Hoshruba Repertory in Mumbai – and she herself studied vocal lessons at the Theme Music Institute in Delhi.

Hers is a life of comfort in urban India softened by liberal parents – what would seem to most as an idyllic world. Yet, depression did strike hard.

According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), depression is “more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed, you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”.”

Depression can occur to anyone. The NHS details the causes of depression as follows:

“There’s no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers.

For some people, an upsetting or stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries, can be the cause.

Different causes can often combine to trigger depression. For example, you may feel low after being ill and then experience a traumatic event, such as a bereavement, which brings on depression.

People often talk about a “downward spiral” of events that leads to depression. For example, if your relationship with your partner breaks down, you’re likely to feel low, you may stop seeing friends and family and you may start drinking more. All of this can make you feel worse and trigger depression.”

Husaini says there is a lot of misconception about mental health. “Often people are unable to distinguish between their emotions as well as tend to exaggerate what they are feeling, which is why it is necessary to consult a psychologist/psychiatrist before going ahead and diagnosing yourself with whatever it may be that you are struggling with.

Self-diagnosis is something that has become more frequent these days, and it does more harm to the person struggling than good. It can be incredibly difficult to ask for help, or even take the step towards therapy. It took me years to do so myself, I’m trying therapy for the first time this year mostly because I constantly resisted it before because I felt uncomfortable, but then I realised that therapy requires you to be uncomfortable in order to get better, because you have to relive feelings and memories that you have repressed all this while.

If you think you might be depressed, it is always better to seek help even though it is difficult because the more you keep it inside of you the more damage you do to yourself which goes on to affect your relationships, work, general state of being, etc.

It is important to acknowledge however that therapy is not always accessible to everyone, it takes time to find a good therapist who you gel with (which is necessary in this interaction because you will ultimately be baring your soul to this person), and often when good therapists are found their fees are too expensive.

Therapy is also a privilege, and I truly believe it should be easily available to anyone who seeks it,” she said.

The role parents and friends play in keeping a person suffering from depression on the ledge, is crucial. Zahra Husaini has been lucky in that aspect as well.

“I’ve mostly kept to myself when it comes to these things. I have very few friends and I don’t reach out to them unless absolutely necessary. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, it’s just a personal habit of mine. I only reached out to my parents recently about it, and they have been supportive.

This, again, is not the case with everyone though. Not everyone has supportive families, which is unfortunate, but it only emphasises how important it is that we surround ourselves with people who we trust with our well-being even if we may not have a direct blood relation,” she said.

Husaini is, understandably grappling with what the future holds for her right now. But with the right treatment and therapy, she is probably going to dazzle Twitter over and over again with her beautiful renditions.