Generally, depression as a mental illness is often associated with the individuals that are moping at the back of the class; the silent ones, those that make their sadness obvious. However, mental illness is an individual issue that can affect anyone, and that does not need to be expressed to be real. As students, as the youth coming from a new generation of acceptance, we have the obligation to break the stigma and speak of these things, considering that their effect is considerable on us all. A lot of people in need of treatment do not obtain such treatment due to lack of fund, or lack of belief in a potential solution for their problems. Indeed, the same people you may see smiling all day and laughing may be going home to cry, and may have serious issues with accepting and loving themselves.
Who are we to ever assume anything about anyone besides ourselves?
According to the World Health Organization, about 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. As a matter of fact, depressive disorders are the leading cause of disability in the world, often affecting women more so than men. Depression can come about in a variety of forms, including recurrent depressive disorder or bipolar affective disorder. The reality is, relativity is a concept intrinsic to that of depression.
Many more people are in those awful mental illness situations and live through them day after day. Those comments made by lack of knowledge about their reality reinforces the problem in my head. Indeed, mental health is taken much too lightly by society, and we are just now beginning to awaken ourselves to the truth of the matter.
My very own best friend has herself dealt with a lot of issues alike. For the sake of privacy, let’s call her “Mary”. The peculiar thing is that you would never guess so from the way she acts. In the context of this piece, I decided to ask her some questions.
She was diagnosed at an incredibly young age due to problems with her father. She would get incredibly anxious and have panic attacks whenever it was her father’s week for custody. He had physically and verbally abused her and her brother, and had even choked her mother during the course of her childhood. Eventually, the family contacted the authorities, resulting in court’s refusal of maintaining her father’s rights to Mary’s custody, no matter how much he denied the allegations.
After much discussion, Mary defined depression as something that changes from one person to another. In her case, she feels overwhelmingly emotionally unstable. She feels sad most of the time, she lacks sleep most of the time, and often feels isolated.
However, her relationship with her mom has been increasingly helpful in making her feel better.
Mary hasn’t found much use for antidepressant: she says they are useful, but they’re only a temporary fix. During our discussion, she compared them to a little bandage barely covering a bullet wound: the moment she doesn’t take them, her emotions feel uncontrollable. The sadness is never really gone, she says, even with antidepressants; it remains at the back of her mind.
Regarding the previously mentioned lack of sleep, she tends to have horrible nightmares, reliving everything she has faced with her father. Otherwise, her sleep simply doesn’t make her feel as rested as it should.
In her opinion, talking to a psychologist does not do as much as talking with people that are actually close to her like her friends and family who have a more personal perspective on things. Mary explained to me how being depressed does not necessarily have to mean that you’re always sad. In fact, when she is with her friends and people that love her, she is genuinely happy. Conversely, it is when she is alone, when there is no one to take her mind off of things, that all of her thoughts are perpetually redirected to past events she’d much rather forget.
On the topic of society’s view of depression, she mentioned some common misconceptions she thinks are vital to change, namely the fact that there are scientific reasons behind depression that back the fact that it is an illness and not something you can just ‘get over’. Furthermore, saying “are you sure you’re depressed? You’re always smiling and laughing with others” and all other variants of these messages are just about the worst things you could say to someone who is potentially struggling themselves to understand the complexity of their personal experience. They already know they act alright in public, and if they chose to tell you about their experience, they trust and expect you to be supportive instead of doubtful. The smiles can be forced, and sometimes aren’t. Reiterating my earlier point, depression doesn’t translate to perpetual sadness.
A lot of remaining factors are making it difficult for Mary specifically to get better, including her father’s attempts at seeing her, no matter how unwilling she is to do so. This apparently happens often, and seeing the cause of her depression makes her relive everything in the span of a few minutes; something that inevitably gets her shaken up.
Another problem specific to Mary’s case is the fact that her younger sister did not have that experience with their father and brings him up sometimes in conversations, which really does not help. Her father treated her much better, resulting in a less negative view of their father for her younger sister. On the other hand, her older brother has lived through the same thing and has had suicidal thoughts as well as depression. Due to societal conventions and gender norms, he feels the need to repress his emotional experiences. Boys can’t cry, right? This kind of thinking can cause serious damage; he is leaving this illness unattended, which inherently enhances it over time. He has adopted this toxic mentality in which boys are not allowed to show weakness, are not allowed to feel without it being considered effeminate.
Mary ultimately told me that she no longer sees light at the end of the tunnel. She can no longer picture her life without depression in it. Unfortunately, for individuals suffering from these kinds of trouble, it is not a rare mentality.
Her best advice that she would like to pass on to other people would be is to try to find a passion, and try to find something to take their minds off what hurts: entertain yourself. Being with the people that love you is also something she has found to be very useful. You do not necessarily have to talk about your illness but at least try and open up to other people.
This is Mary’s experience with depression, and in no way a general and universally applicable experience. Different people can feel depression differently: we need to accept that.
With the ongoing Mental Health Week at the College, a great initiative for you as a student to take is to get informed; I believe it is our duty to rally ourselves in support of one another and take down the stigma, as well as break down this ideology of society of prioritizing a broken leg to a mental breakdown.
The Marianopolis Psychology Club has recently put into place the great initiative to start a Story Box, in which people write words of support for people with mental illnesses to show they aren’t alone, and even write things their struggling with as well: whatever it may be. All of the resulting messages will be posted soon for everyone to see and be inspired by.
If you want to find out more details about depression in all its forms, here are some helpful links for you to go to.
The World Health Organisation defines “depression”:
A video on being supportive and a helper to people suffering from mental illness:
More information on the types of depressions out there:
Written by MWR writer Ousmane Diagne, edited by the MWR team