These are the three things that really stick out to me when discussing mental health. People are scared of it because they don’t understand, the unknown makes them cautious. Suddenly the person seems like some sort of threat oddly enough, or they think it’ll change their friendship and prefer to keep their distance. But why should it? It doen’t change the personality of the individual and it is a common issue whether it is discussed or not.
Understanding depression is the first step to reducing stigmas in society and lead to acceptance and support for those who are scared to speak out. These souls face fear, rejection and stereotyping on top of their personal struggle to health. Really they are the person sitting next to you, your respected colleague, your loved friend or public figure.
- A person is not their illness
A person should not be defined by their condition. They have an illness, but that does not change who they are. They are often beautiful souls living life to the maximum and are very happy (a contradiction I know, but often very true!). If somebody has depression, they aren’t any different in a personality sense. They are normal human beings. We don’t define somebody by their diabetes, so why does society do it for mental health?
- Depression does not discriminate
Depression doesn’t just latch on to sad people, it doesn’t just latch on to unhealthy or crazy people. Depression also latches on to the happy, the intelligent, the loved. In fact, it’s pretty damn common, hidden under smiles and busy lifestyles. Countless studies show that 1 in 4 New Zealanders have it – to put it into perspective, that’s roughly the size of Auckland. Many people hide it, for various reasons, and you’d be surprised who you know that is keeping it a secret. It is a monster that can target anyone, regardless of their personality, race, age or gender. It can happen to anyone, just like altitude sickness or other illnesses can.
- There are different forms of depression
Depression at times can be situational and short-term (let’s say, a couple of months) or longer. This is most people’s perception of depression, that it is something that can be changed by changing one’s circumstances. Sometimes it is indeed due to circumstance, and this type can be dealt with by counselling to help identify the issues and adjust the person’s way of thinking about it. Unfortunately for many, “fixing” it or snapping out of it is not an option. Why? Because depression is also genetic (increased risk of acquisition to the offspring) and chemical. Put simply, depression is when the brain’s receptors can’t absorb the happy signals well. It is a chemical imbalance.This type of depression isn’t necessarily a matter of circumstance so counselling may not be as beneficial as medication may be.Just like somebody who has trouble absorbing iron might take vitamin c, somebody with depression might take pills to help them balance the chemicals.
I hope that people can understand that depression isn’t something to be afraid of and run from. Be aware that they may have it, and sometimes go through patches, but it shouldn’t affect the way you treat them or their personality. If they were fun-loving and happy beforehand, they still are. Treat everyone with respect and kindness, because often it is a shared secret.