We are fortunate to live in a time when efforts are being vigorously made to put an end to the horrid stigma of mental health. There are many facets to the struggle of mental health; perhaps some of the facets need to be better understood to help society have a fuller view of the struggle many live with every day.
One specific area, although no less challenging is massive depression. If we look at some of the stages people fight through to survive deep depressive spells it helps to give a perspective that most never have personal experience with. In my opinion stigmas are formed and developed by those who lack perspective and experience with a situation.
Looking at a person who has suffered a difficult depression, rarely will they tell you that they still felt apart of the world around them. Depression looks like many things to those looking in. Many people who have suffered a deep or prolonged depression experience memory struggles at times loosing memories and days or weeks, even months at a time. Body pains are common for many reasons. Painful emotions explode as depressive episodes take away from friends and family.
All to often in our country’s present and past I hear people talk about depression as something that can simply be overcome by a walk in the park or a hobby. Some shun the idea of a person ever needing medicated for a mental illness, though they will support the idea of a person going to a physician for any other illness. Many see failure in medication as a reason people should avoid the treatment altogether. Others feel that once a treatment plan is in action and showing promise the person should never experience bad days again, which is pretty unrealistic when all people suffer bad days.
Once a person has experienced a deep depression, it changes their life.
I read recently that people who are working on recovering often times have to relearn physical and emotional things. Some need physical therapy to help fight the aches, pains, and in cases muscle atrophy that can occur. Some need to walk their way back into emotions and develop new coping tools. Sadly, many who need this type of recovery cannot afford it or have little confidence in getting help because of the social stigma in the first place.
Depression is a recursive illness. Once a person starts suffering there is a landslide of emotions and pains that continue to dig us deeper into the pain we are already suffering. For those of us who can get help, the emotions of guilt and shame do not end, at least right away. We fight our pain, our personal illness; we fight a society that isn’t exactly supportive of sufferers.
Some of us have the opportunity to fight another day, despite the pain we know we will always carry with us. Some, sadly, cannot fight their way out of the black tar they are stuck in. All too often these people are disgraced post life for selfishness or the inabillity to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”; adding further to a stigma that pained them, and other suffers in the first place.
Depression is not something we’ve earned, or that we ask for in life. Depression is an illness created by a chemical imbalance or even a genetic predisposition.
Next time you express your opinions about various mental health illnesses, please consider the silent suffers who may be sitting at your very table. Please consider the statics on how many men, women, and children actually suffer a condition they cannot prevent. Like a recent commercial I saw: would you admonish a cancer patient for seeking help? Would you openly mock individuals who have and are suffering cancer?
Please help Fight the Stigma.