Depression is all around us and there is an argument as the problem becomes more common, so does intolerance. The ‘No Health Without Mental Health’ paper of 2011, highlighted the fact this was entering the Government agenda. There is, however, an argument that there still exists a stigma and because of this people are maybe reticent to disclose. I have worked with several clients who are reluctant to disclose to family, friends or employers, which is concerning, as they are effectively suffering in silence, without support. Some people may see this as strength, but actually the individual could be repressing a lot of emotion, which will ultimately manifest itself. The question then becomes in what form will this surface?
There has been criticism from within the media aimed at people speaking out on mental illness and it has even been branded a ‘fashion item’. Having worked around mental illness for many years, this not only astounds, but also saddens me. Mental illness is not just restricted to the individual experiencing it, its effects can be felt on a much wider scale. One of the first questions I ask anyone supporting a family member or friend with a mental illness is what support are they themselves getting? I have seen people struggle to pull themselves out of bed in a morning; lose weight at an alarming rate due to loss of appetite; become disengaged from family and friends for long periods of time; take extended periods of leave from work; cease with anything relating to personal hygiene and feel so low that they do not wish to carry on with the pain.
These are not symptoms we should be critical or judgemental of, but things we should be vigilant of. It’s very easy to see the illness as part of the person, but I would invite you to see it as something which has taken hold of them, of which they have little to no control over. I wonder what would happen if we had the same attitude to mental illness as we do to physical illness?