Curated and partially narrated by Amrita Tripathi and Arpita Anand, Mindscape: Real Stories of Dealing with Depression is a collection of stories from Indian individuals sharing their lived experiences with depression, and in some cases, anxiety. The stories are interspersed with advice from psychologist Arpita Anand, and the collection is broken down based on different forms of depression and therapy, dealing with everything from Clinical Depression to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and also tackling Post-Partum Depression.
Overall, the book is a good start for those looking to educate themselves about depression, its many, many forms, its triggers, and its treatment. It makes for a great way to start a conversation about mental health with someone who may not agree or believe in mental health, as is often the case.
I, however, would not recommend this as a must-read for those who have dealt with or are currently dealing with depression themselves. As someone currently battling severe depression and anxiety, these stories felt lived and a little triggering on occasion. Structurally, it was also a little jarring to go from stories to clinical information, especially reading facts that I’m already well aware of. The shift from story to medical information took away from the (for lack of a better word) charm of the raw nature of storytelling that each writer held while they narrated their tales.
There are a few things I’d like to note that really stood out to me throughout the book:
- Every experience is different but the same: In the section “Living with Depression”, every single story was relatable, which is probably what made it triggering. There were mentions of suicide, panic attacks, anxiety, stress spirals, and everything that you could associate with depression, and while each storyteller came from a different household and background, their stories felt the same, much like mine.
- It begins early: “Living with Depression” also shone a light on the fact that depressive symptoms begin to show up during the adolescent years, and often get worse as time goes by. Every single storyteller talked about how they saw the signs in the 10th or 12th grade, additionally addressing the stress we bear when tackling those crucial years of education. These stories do a good job of showing how desperately we need early diagnosis of depression, and the importance of attention to and care of mental health during that age, especially given the societal pressure of doing well in school and college.
- Debunking: The authors do a good job of debunking myths about depression. While this section felt redundant to me, it’s a great way to engage naysayers and those looking to get a crash course in understanding depression.
- Addressing the link between mental health and sexuality: Individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community are nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression (see here and here), and the book addresses this link between one’s sexual orientation and depression with journalist Anant Zanane’s story. Anant does a beautiful job of unwrapping the depression linked with his identity as a closeted gay man, the pressures of keeping this secret at work and dealing with both external and some internalised homophobia, and juggling both of these while attempting to maintain good mental health.
- Addressing depression in motherhood: What is perceived to be a woman’s most wonderful life experience is often also the cause of depression. Post-partum depression, which often gets dismissed as exhaustion is real, and this book is a good conversation starter for it. The authors of these stories share their experiences with tenderness and a great sense of courage.
- Mental health for the professionals: I truly appreciate that this book also covered ground on the importance of mental health for mental health practitioners. We often forget that these individuals are also, at the end of the day, human beings dealing with real human problems themselves, and Mindscape provides a small collection of self-care practices used by mental health professionals.
The book closes with an exhaustive list of helpline numbers and further reading to broaden your mental health understanding. It’s a good book to have in your collection, and an ever book to pass on to someone who’d like to understand the ins and outs of depression.
If you or someone you know is currently dealing with depression, please contact a trusted mental health professional or medical service. You may also use one of the helpline numbers below to seek help. If you’re reaching out about someone you know, please make sure you have their consent before bringing them medical attention.