10 October marks World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme focuses particularly on depression.
Having worked with and known people who have suffered with depression, I think awareness raising in this context is crucial. The word ‘depression’ has moved into common parlance. I might talk about feeling depressed on a daily basis when something comes up that affects my mood negatively.
Actually suffering from the symptoms of depression is vastly different and in some ways, language isn’t a friend to those who do suffer from depression.
As we allow ‘depression’ to become almost synonymous with ‘sadness’ we misjudge a swathe of people for whom the illness is an immense source of difficulty. pain and distress. Depression isn’t sadness. Depression isn’t about the ebb and flow of mood. Depression can be debilitating and hopeless. Depression needs to be far better understood in that context and in the context that it can affect anyone and everyone – regardless of background, class or social status.
We can’t make judgements externally by looking at someone else’s life and decide if they ‘should be happy or not’ because depression doesn’t work like that. Life doesn’t work like that.
What we can do is look and see if someone is suffering and if they are, why should we do anything other than empathise with that experience of suffering and try to alleviate that in any way possible.
Having walked alongside, as far as possible, those who have and do experience depression, I have an admiration for the immense struggle that comes with each day and I learn from it.
My hope for this World Mental Health Day which seeks to increase understanding and reduce stigma is that depression isn’t seen as something is a decision people make about their lives. It can’t be ‘shaken off’ at will.
That needs understanding and that needs focus.