It’s time to speak out
Depression is hard
“Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.
Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide. When mild, people can be treated without medicines but when depression is moderate or severe they may need medication and professional talking treatments.”
(Taken from the WHO page on depression)
It sounds so simple. So easy to spot, to cure. You feel low, you get treatment. Life gets better. Right?
I had post-natal depression after the birth of my first child. I had ante natal depression before the birth of my second child. And now, eighteen months later, depression has touched my family once more. My husband, my stalwart, my greatest supporter has fallen under its dark, twisted web.
So, being the expert sufferer, I spotted the signs right away? Right? No. I listened to his rants, I watched him draw away from our family, watched him start to resent the children, our life. And I told him to man up, I told him he was a father, a husband, and that he needed to take the responsibilities that he had chosen and live up to them.
It took his near total breakdown for me to spot what should have been obvious. And you know what? No-one talks about it. No one mentions depression. No one says that it’s so common place that if you look around a group of new mothers, 1 in 3 of them will, statistically speaking, have pre or post natal depression.
“Approximately 33% of mothers who experienced depression symptoms during pregnancy went on to have PND.
Approximately 25% of mothers still suffered from PND up to a year after their child was born.
Approximately 58% of new mothers with PND did not seek medical help. This was often due to them not understanding the condition or fearing the consequences of reporting the problem.”
No one talks about what being depressed is really like.
The WHO definition doesn’t even come close to talking about the overwhelming sense of gloom, of uselessness, that you can see but one way out of your situation. For some, that is disappearing, for others, self harm. Depression is not an illness to be taken lightly. Depression is not the same as the baby blues. Depression is not something to be ashamed of, to hide. And yet we do.
A friend breaks their leg. We send them chocolate, we buy flowers, a get well soon card. We sign their cast, we ask what we can do to help.
A friend is diagnosed with depression. We don’t know how to talk to them. We don’t send flowers, we don’t write cards. We are afraid. Afraid to say the wrong thing. Afraid to tip them over the edge.
When you are ill with anything else, you tell the world. You seek sympathy.
When you are diagnosed with depression, you hide it. Afraid that it people will think we’ve failed. That social services will take our kids. That we are going to be viewed as somehow less, lacking.
Isn’t it about time that sufferers of such a common illness get the support they need? And the support they deserve? Isn’t it about time to move it from being a hidden, undetected, silent killer, to being an openly discussed illness, where we can start to understand how to help our friends? Where we all learn to spot it, so we can catch it early and treat it?
Please, join me. Talk about mental illness. Be open with your friends. Tell them how they can help you, even if it’s small things. And if it’s your friend that has opened up to you? Be honoured that they feel they can trust you, and follow their lead. Be there when they want to talk. Check in with them, touch base, remind them that you care for them. Don’t just фокус on their mental illness. Remember that they are a person with an illness, not just a depressed person.
If you want to find out more about depression and how to support someone with depression, check out some of these pages: