In medicine, we accept that both diabetes and schizophrenia are diseases which require a multi-faceted approach to treatment. Whether you have hypertension, a stab chest or bipolar mood disorder, you attend a healthcare facility for treatment. We accept that diseases of the mind are equally as important as diseases of the body, and we treat accordingly.
Society seems to view patients with mental health disorders a little differently, and sadly there is so much stigma attached to these people.
What do you have to be depressed about? You have a great job, a loving family. You should be grateful. Just go for a run and you’ll feel better.
Wow, you really need to lay off the booze, Jack. Just quit cold turkey! It will be easy.
What are you so anxious about? Just relax, everything will be fine. Come on, pull yourself together.
You see how we downplay mental health disorders? We pretend like it’s not that big of a deal. We pretend it’s a temporary feeling which can easily be adjusted. We think that they are anxious, depressed or addicted to substances because they’re weak and don’t know how to handle their shit. We trivialise the seriousness of their condition because it makes us feel uncomfortable, and as a result we diminish the people who suffer from mental health conditions. We don’t give them the space or opportunity to talk about what they’re going through, and exacerbate the stigma.
According to American statistics from 2014, approximately 18% of adults in the USA suffer from a mental health condition, of which 4.2% are serious enough to cause functional impairment*. Therefore, nearly one in five people have a mental health condition. That is not something to be taken lightly. Mental health disorders are common and prevalent, and we can’t keep burying our heads in the sand thinking this is something people can just get over.
I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to feel like you have no control over your mind or emotions. To be told you have something like depression, a disease which you will have for the rest of your life and that needs to be managed with medication. To not know how to cope with difficult situations, so you self-harm, use drugs or alcohol or contemplate taking your own life. To then feel like you have no one to turn to for support, to feel dismissed or looked down on, to feel like no one knows what you’re going through… Well that just makes it ten times harder.
I can guarantee that every one of you reading this knows someone who’s going through something tough. We need to start having important conversations about mental health, because the more dialogue there is around this the less stigma there will be. No person should ever have to feel like they have a disease for which they cannot get help, or even talk about. Please, don’t belittle people with mental health conditions. They are so much more than their conditions, and should never be limited by it.
If you need to talk to someone, The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is open 7 days a week from 8am – 8pm. The numbers are 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26, and you can speak to a trained counselor who will assist you further. Their webiste is www.sadag.org if you need more information.
Thanks for stopping by ❤