Friday, February 14, 2014

The Stigma of Depression

If you haven't had depression and you're curious to know how it feels, try reading Sally Brampton's brilliant memoire called "Shoot The Damn Dog". It's a difficult read as she explains the excruciating pain of living with severe depression. Yet it's well worth the effort.

Few people are brave enough to talk openly about having suffered with depression. The stigma attached to the illness is huge and yet the figures are even bigger.

There is nothing morally, ethically or lawfully wrong with suffering with depression. Nobody does anything to deserve the illness and yet we act as if it is something to be ashamed of.

Dealing with shame about having a problem with your thought patterns will obviously make things even worse.

One of the worst questions to ask someone in depression is the usual "How are you?" This may sound like a normal question but in depression it's one of the worst.

How can you explain that you feel in so much mental pain that you can barely deal with it? Suicide thoughts begin. The idea of living another day with the pain is almost too much to bear.

Maybe that's where the awkwardness sets in.

Depression can lead to suicide and nobody wants to ever think about that. Far too scarey. Far too much to handle in conversation.

Yet the sufferer longs to be heard. To somehow share the burden of what it feels like to be living with depression. Having someone alongside them to listen, to comfort and to say nothing other than "I am with you in this".

The stigma of depression is so strong that it frightens people off. Almost as if associating with someone with depression will somehow rub off on them and they too will be stigmatised.

Have you ever felt like crossing the road when you see a suffering friend or colleague heading your way?

Next time try saying "I want you to know that I am here for you. Let me do something to help. Let me take your ironing off your hands. Let me make you an evening meal. Let me help you clean the house." Offers of concrete help, rather than a fleeting moment of concern as you ask, yet again "so how are you?"

Yes, it's a complicated illness that affects not just the sufferer's thought patterns but those who are caring for them too.

But we have to start somewhere and that somewhere could be with you.

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