So, no sooner do I write a post about the stigmatising of mental illness, something comes up to perfectly illustrate my point. Writing in the Daily Mail, Janet Street-Porter argued that depression is now trendy, and essentially that if people bucked up their ideas, they’d do a lot better. Oh, and apparently we shouldn’t have sympathy for men with depression, although I honestly couldn’t figure out why.
Now, I’m not actually going to dispute that there are some circumstances in which just getting on with things is a good plan. There are definitely times when you just need to stop, get over yourself, then carry on. But – and this is the important bit – that’s not the same as depression. One of the major problems people with depression have is that others think it’s the same as feeling a bit miserable. It isn’t. Everyone has days when they feel better than others. As far as I’m aware, it’s called “life”. Depression is like living that life in a sucking black hole that not only drains the colour out of everything, but feels like it’s consuming you as well.
When you’re feeling miserable, you might eat more than you mean to, or yell at someone when you don’t mean to, or you might burst into tears if someone looks at you in a funny way. It’s a bad day, and it passes. Being depressed is feeling like that times about a million all the time, as well as lacking the energy/willpower/sense of self that allows you to perform complex tasks such as getting out of bed or cleaning your teeth. On slightly less bad days, you might manage that, only to be defeated by getting dressed.
There are several eloquent rebuttals of the Mail article, if which probably the most high-profile is Alistair Campbell’s blog here (article from Daily Mirror). Whatever you think of him and his politics, he’s been an eloquent and loud spokesman for Mind over the years, and he includes the statistics on depression, that apparently Janet Street-Porter couldn’t be bothered to Google for.
[NB I haven’t linked to the Daily Mail article, because I don’t want to go and seek it out again, but running the words “Janet Street-Porter Depression” through a search engine will bring it up quickly enough.]