Why Is Society So Embarrassed Of Mental Illness? | Real Talk

Did you know that the more times you suffer a bout of depression the more likely it is too return, no matter how good you think you feel, it’s probably going to happen again. I want to say that this is the third time I’ve been through a phase of depression, but to be completely honest I’m not sure that depression has ever left me, at least not entirely. Like a dear old friend that you haven’t seen for months, yet when reunited it feels no time has passed at all. That’s how I greet the warning signs that I’m ‘getting bad again’. Not with open arms, but with an ‘oh is it that time again?’ kind of like getting your period every month. You don’t necessarily want it, but it’s going to happen anyway. 

In a time frame, I’d say I probably spend around two months out of every twelve in a depression state of mind. Which is a vast improvement of being depressed for two years straight, I must say. By ‘depression state of mind’ I’m talking about the anxiety, the uncontrollable emotions, the loneliness, the overthinking, the cutting yourself off from everyone, the sadness in general. Depression isn’t just about being a sad person, it’s about so much more than that. It’s about having your mind invaded by the enemy and not having enough strength to fight back. It’s about wanting to fight back but not knowing how. It’s about not seeking help because society is telling people that mental illness is something to be ashamed of, something that shouldn’t be talked about out loud. I want people to stop thinking of depression as something to be embarrassed of, something to hide because you’re ashamed, and something that you don’t seek help for because society is telling you not to talk about it. I want to make a change, and I want you to talk about depression. 

Every year one in five Australians will experience mental illness, the most common being depression and anxiety. That’s 20% of our population and society still tells us it’s something to be ashamed of. That many people are going through serious mind invasion and so many of them are sitting at home not dealing with it because according to the rest of the country we shouldn’t talk what goes on in our minds. I’m the first to admit that I didn’t talk about it at first. I didn’t even want to tell my parents when I was given my diagnosis: severe depression, anxiety and an anger disorder. However I thought they needed an explanation for my behaviour of the previous years, even though I knew they had already figured out I was depressed. At the stage I was in it was fairly obvious to just about everyone I came into contact with that I was not in a good state of mind. I was unbelievably unhappy all the time, I cried a lot, I barely left my house, I was irritable, I was angry, I was just not in a good place. The main reason that I let myself get that bad, that depressed, was because I thought having a mental illness was something to be embarrassed of. I knew in my head that I was depressed but to be diagnosed with it would make it real and it would make it my label, just something else that society could hold against me. 

My first two years of depression were the truly the worst two years of my life and having been through that now I can recognise in myself when I’m struggling again and I know when to get help, because there is no way that I would ever want to return to the person I was back then. That first depression stage was the closest I’ve ever been to wanting to give up. I will say this now, I never considered suicide as an actual option, but when times got really bad, for instance in times of chaotic break down, the thought does sit in the back of your mind, just waiting for you to think about it. To subconsciously plan it out, to sit in silence thinking about how much easier it would be to end it all. Somehow I was strong enough to not let myself get that far into my own brain, and for me I think that if I’m strong enough to fight back that thought, I can give it a go at fighting back all the other bad thoughts that like to take up residence in my brain. On average, six Australians commit suicide a day. Six too many. They are the people that didn’t find the strength in themselves to fight back those thoughts. They are the people that probably didn’t seek help for fear of being judged, or labelled or outcast. They are the people that society told to be ashamed. 

The turning point for me was more of an epiphany than anything. I realised I wanted to make something of myself, that I wanted to be successful and feel accomplished and work hard for something. That I wanted to enjoy my last year of school, not spend it rugged up in my bedroom only talking to my teachers when it was absolutely necessary. 
That I wanted to get better. That point for me was over a year ago, and I did enjoy my last year of school. I went to school because I actually wanted too, I had friends that made me want to get out of bed every morning. I applied for the Navy, which at the time was what I thought I wanted to do with my life, being denied for having recently had depression turned out to be a blessing really, it made me realise that I really had to work to get what I wanted. It’s brought me to this point, the point where I’m sick of people being too ashamed to talk about what’s going on in their minds. The point where I’ll tell anyone and everyone what depression is really like no matter if that is an ‘uncomfortable’ topic for them. No one should be ashamed to seek help and no one should have the right to make someone ashamed for having a mental illness. It’s all around us and unless we take action now those statistics I mentioned earlier are only going to rise. Here’s my challenge to you, ask someone if they’re okay, ask your friend, your neighbour, you sons and daughters. Ask them how their mind is. Ask them if they’re doing okay. Ask them if they’re struggling. If they are brave enough to seek comfort in telling you that they aren’t doing okay, don’t embarrass them for it, help them. Help me to help society overcome their embarrassment of mental illness.