Depression, Alcoholism and How You Can Avoid Losing It

May 18, 2018

By Dr. Tunde Okewale

CEO, St. Ives Healthcare Group

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The circumstances surrounding the death of Swedish DJ and dance music star, Avicii, born Tim Bergling is tragic: he had severe health challenges and fell into depression; his depression got to the peak and he turned to alcoholism; his succor in alcohol quickly further deteriorated his health and his pain became unbearable; consequently he lost all reasons to live, and resolved to commit suicide.


Sadly, he was found dead on April 20, 2018. He was only 28 years old.


You may be surprised to know that millions of Nigerians live daily under similar circumstances and the reality is even more worrisome for two reasons: Nigerians have a ton-load of challenges to cite (for Nigerians, substitute health challenges for any of health, financial, marital, work, family challenges) as triggers, and because we play down on depression and mental health in general in this society. In the process, we are inadvertently welcoming to it, negligently enabling of it, and sadly failing to deal with it.


Alcoholism And Drugs As Pop Culture

A lot of people therefore live oblivious of this death sentence dangling on their heads and instead of admitting their grim mental states and requesting help, they look for temporary routes of escape and distractions such as alcohol, drugs or crime.



And the magnitude of recourse to these destructive habits is alarming because it’s at epidemic proportions amongst the youth in the country, who do not actually require major life challenges before turning to drugs and booze. To them, getting high and bingeing on booze is a mark of being a man and thus, a “status symbol”.


Actually it has been elevated to the status of “pop culture” and it negatively impacts those who are attracted to, and influenced by it. And they represent a huge number of young people. Quite a lot of them want to “Belong”.


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While we mourn the inglorious passing of DJ Avicii, we should not lose sight of what he truly represents: the young Swede was accomplished at such a young age, having left a remarkable body of works in music as lasting legacy. However, and more importantly: he left lessons for us, which must be acknowledged and heeded because we would be better off learning to cross the ditch he couldn’t.


So, following are highlights of the core factors that led to Tim Bergling’s bad health and eventual suicide, and how you can scale them without resorting to the ultimate escape of death.


The Demands and Disguise of Depression

Like you might have experienced at some point: a switch of lifestyle can be difficult sometimes. An example is when you move to a new environment away from your friends and usual faces; when you get into a new school; or when you’re on a new job. Or when you become a new person like winning a reality show or a recording contract, or a movie award.


Suddenly you are a Star!


It usually takes some time to get your balance and adjust to the new life. This wasn’t so easy for DJ Avicii whose transition from being an introvert, to hard-partying DJ constantly under the limelight took a deadly tow on him until he gave up on trying and succumbed to the impossible demands.


And this is picture-perfect scenario for the multitude of our young ones who seek the glitz and glamor of the entertainment industry. When you are taking too long to adapt to this kind of change; when you suffer to meet up with the exacting demands of being the “Star”, when you feel like it all makes you be a “different person”, you become easily prone to depression. Things won’t have clear meanings anymore, and the more these feelings linger, the more your mind gets tired. Soon you can no longer see the lines.


That’s exactly how depression happens. It begins when meaning doesn’t seem to be clear on what you do any longer. It saps your energy, both physically and emotionally. At this point, however, giving up is not even an option because you feel you have to live this new life. You feel obligated though you feel oppressed.


So when you start feeling like this weight of expectations and obligations is literally “killing” you, then depression is you. Boy, you NEED HELP.


I mean you should get help immediately. In clinics or counselling centres, you will be surprised how a simple therapy will help you sanitize your mind, and get you back on track. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help for mental infractions… to be on top of the game requires that you be on top of your game. And that most definitely means you need to stay sane and in control.


Another popular “pop” artist, Kanye West, was once at this low point, but it only took him a few months to retrace successfully. The untold truth is that several superstars have had to get “HELP” at some points to stay on top of their games, but such cases are hardly news because they need to keep up the “larger-than-life”, always in control superstar personae


Sometimes it’s just being able to talk to someone who doesn’t see you as the superstar you have become. Sometimes it’s just getting back to family members who had become strangers since your new status. Those are the people that can help you retrace your roots and rediscover the pieces that make you, YOU.


DJ Avicii eventually reached out to his family before he passed, but his brother’s flight to Oman where he was, was two hours (too) late.


For you, act quickly. Act now.



Alcohol use is common to people fighting depression. It’s intoxicating, and that means they have less sane time to be worried about on-going issues in their lives. It was an escape route Avicii strongly relied on.


Do you know the problem with alcohol exactly?


It won’t take the problem away, and it will destroy your health slowly. It only works in the moment, and that minute when you’re sober again, the need to drink calls right in. In the Swedish DJ’s case, he had been diagnosed of acute pancreatitis, which implies inflammation of the pancreas.


Pancreatitis and other health hazards from Alcoholism

The pancreas is the gland helps digestions, but it freezes at the sight of heavy drinking and becomes useless. Avicii had undergone a surgery to remove his gallbladder, after suffering from severe complications. But his uncontrollable recourse to heavy liquor meant his body could not function properly and his pain became intolerable. Ultimately he sought the final escape.


Obviously, alcoholism will only undermine your race to recovery, putting you in further jeopardy if you’re depressed. But depression and pancreatitis are not the only health hazards occasioned by chronic alcohol dependency, a myriad of avoidable health issues abound as follow:


  1. Liver cirrhosis and other liver diseases
  2. Anemia
  3. Higher risk of various cancer
  4. Immune system dysfunction
  5. Nerve damages
  6. Cardiovascular diseases
  7. Dementia
  8. Ulcer and other gastrointestinal problems
  9. Osteoporosis
  10. Gout
  11. Seizures
  12. Hypertension
  13. Brain damage


It is clear to agree that the temporary high from alcohol is not worthy enough for the legion of jeopardy it can cause, but the ease of access and the peer pressure of indulgence make it difficult to keep the youth sane enough to see reason.


Escapism into Drugs and Addictions

Tim Bergling wasn’t guilty of this, at least with the information in public domain. However, when depressed, you will be tempted to escape into drugs, weed smoking and a host of other activities that are of no good to your health.


I consider it necessary to add drug escapism because it has prominence in Nigeria. Struggling, tired and unhappy, many people live on weed, alcoholic bitters and gins to ‘forget about the worries of the moment.’ Of course, you will be too exhilarated at the moment to worry about anything, but you know too that you only have a few hours to get back into the ditch of depression. Worse still, you will be putting your liver, kidney, pancreas and heart at risk.


You’ve got to kill the depression before it does you. It happens, for plenty of reasons, but you’ve got the responsibility to quell it before it escalates.


Social “Responsible” Drinking

However, we can help ourselves and our young ones keep a healthy distance from liquor by being good examples. Alcohol in moderation hurts no one, and might even be healthy.


The onus thus falls more on the older populace to help keep the younger ones in check through exemplary role models behaviors. Social drinking or responsible drinking should be adopted and consciously promoted for the kids to see how it should be done.


There are other safer ways to “have a good time” other than booze bingeing.


Counseling, Therapy and Rehabilitation

If you think you or someone close to you is becoming hooked on heavy drinking for whatever reason, kindly report for therapy and start on rehabilitations in good time. There are several centers and non-profit organizations around us that dedicated to such causes.


Even a number of regular clinics and health centers have functional counseling units with active and competent professionals


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More Effective and Stringent Regulations

The government, corporate organizations, relevant institutions and agencies have bigger roles to play here. More needs to be done in the areas of more effective regulations, stricter access, and diligent implementations of rules.


Many will be quick to say this will be difficult. Yes, I agree. But it can be done if we are willing enough. Nothing good comes easy after all.


More Responsible Marketing

From canny subtle marketing to wanton glorification of amoral lifestyles that heap pressures on this vulnerable demographics, the less said of the roles of beverage organizations the better. But being responsible as a social entity should be aspirational for these companies because it is more gratifying than the fleeting glories of higher profit margins from enabling the circumstances that aid this epidemic among the youth.


What is the point in destroying the same society where we feed?


More “Public Awareness” Campaigns

Finally there is need for some kind of greater information dissemination exercise from government. This can be done through professionally produced public awareness campaigns from government, and supported by some of the organizations directly and indirectly concerned in the various sectors.


Such campaigns must be fun but straight to the point. They should be regular and sustained with a dedication strongly noticeable and that can be infectious and effective with the restless mass of Nigerian youth nationwide.


Funny thing is: these types of campaigns were plenty in the 80s, whatever happened to deliberate social communication exercise by government agencies addressing key national issues for the greater good?


Depression, alcohol, drugs destroy slowly. They damage the present and deny the future. But we can check these by acting quickly and timely. I know it’s difficult, but we have to try.


The youth are worth saving, because the future is brighter and better.


About The Author


Dr. Babatunde Okewale is a UK trained Obstetrician, Gynecologist and a leading fertility expert, heading the St. Ives Healthcare Group in Nigeria.


Posted in Blog by Babatunde Okewale