Before I say my piece, I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that I do believe depression is a real illness and I do believe many people are afflicted by some form of mental illness at one point or another in their lives. I have no wish to detract from the severity with which people feel mental illness, nor the effect it has on their lives and the lives of the others around them. However, I do think we have a problem with mental illness and it’s not just our inability to talk about it.
A few years ago, mental illness really was a huge taboo and something that was very much swept under the carpet and kept off the radar. Then, as with most things, it became more commonly heard of and charities and support groups received the publicity they had so been longing for so they could really reach out to those who need their help. In my opinion, the trouble is we’ve veered off track and made mental illness fashionable. I’m not talking about the full spectrum of mental illnesses that stop people from engaging in meaningful relationships or that make it challenging for kids to do well in school, I’m talking about the “depression” which leads to people taking a few days off work here and there or blaming their social inadequacies on this so-called illness.
People are everywhere these days talking about depression and if that many people really are depressed all at once, we must have some sort of epidemic on our hands. But then I’ve met, known, lived with people with real depression and they didn’t talk about it every day and they didn’t behave like depressed people to the outside world; it was all hidden so only those closest to them could see it. Their behaviour also didn’t change rapidly from one day to the next as suddenly that new pair of shoes or that promotion boosted their mood, because these trivial happenings didn’t get through the depression to really impact the person underneath.
Now I appreciate that as with most things, there is a scale that runs from mildly depressed to suicidal but my question is whether the people at the very mild end are actually depressed. Are they really depressed or just a bit down? Did the doctor do the usual thing of handing them a leaflet about depression because they said they were struggling with their mood, so therefore they must have it? What about changes in lifestyle; diet, exercise, etc.? Did anyone consider what impact those have on a person’s mood? I’m guessing that no, these things were not considered because it’s fashionable to have some sort of affliction which means that if you get out of bed in the morning people should praise you. But in my experience, really depressed people usually don’t notice the praise and they don’t want the world knowing their weakness.
So who are these hangers on and what are they doing there? My worry is that people will get fed up. They’ll get fed up of feeling like they should support people who are just a bit down in the dumps and wonder why they ever cared about this mental illness stuff in the first place. There are genuine people out there with real mental health issues which severely impact their day-to-day life and they do need our help. So my plea is this; if you are a person who claims to be depressed and acts like a moody teenager when really you are just a bit down, please admit it rather than calling it depression. Other people really do struggle to get through life without support and it would be great if the kind-hearted, charitable people out there could focus on them, knowing that you will get over it in a day or two. x