Breaking the Stereotypical Milieu -The Social Stigma Surrounding Depression

Picture this scenario. You have a fall and break your arm. You are embarrassed to tell anyone that you were hurt, worried that people will judge you and look at you differently. I mean, how could you break a bone? It is simply not acceptable to be physically invalid and take part in societal functions. Now you must be thinking that this would never happen in real life. It is just a physical injury, nothing too serious.

Then why do we reserve judgement for those suffering from mental health issues, like depression? Why such scorn for those suffering from something that is clearly as serious as any physical injury.

Breaking the Stereotypical Milieu -The Social Stigma Surrounding Depression
Source : copyright : Christian Hopkins

We have this innate bias for those with ‘mental illnesses’. I say mental illness because it is more than a state of mind or emotional state a person goes through. A serious problem that should garner the same attention as any other. The point is not in discussing its causes or the implications it carries. The issue at hand is the way in which any mental illness is either exaggerated to epic proportions, or belittled.

There was a time when the very mention of mental illness was considered an unfortunate problem. It was kept concealed for fear of being declared mentally unfit for education or even jobs. Often people come out and say that the very idea of mental issues is in particular a modern age problem. What they fail to realise is their hostile attitude forced many to live through it all their lives or eventually end their lives.

The attitude problem did not end, the only reason it is even a topic of discussion is that many have dared to come out of the four walls and deal with it head-on. Has that changed people’s perception overtime? To a small extent, yes. While a majority still ends up making light of the whole situation. Many of us might believe that this perception would have changed seeing as how far we have come in appreciating our emotional quotient. However, it is no secret that our reluctance towards the problem is very much a part of the present scenario.

Breaking the Stereotypical Milieu -The Social Stigma Surrounding Depression
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In another case, many of us end up trivialising the severity of the problem, mostly out of ignorance. To claim that ignorance about the subject gives anyone a free pass is not the suggestion here. Even the best of us who are well aware of the difficult situation are not far behind in downplaying it in our day-to-day actions. There are those of us who work tirelessly five days a week or study for hours on end, and when the weekend rolls in we declare that we went into depression from the sheer enormity of the workload. If that is not trivialising the issue, I do not know what is.

Depression is not tiredness because of excessive work or a reason people tend to use it as opposed to their procrastination. So many different instances that minimize our understanding of mental problems can be seen in everyday occurrences. Claiming that one is “OCD about cleaning” when you are just meticulous, or calling a moody person as “bi-polar”. This is mocking a mental illness that leads people to the path of taking their own lives, to a bitter extent.

Breaking the Stereotypical Milieu -The Social Stigma Surrounding Depression
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Occasionally we come across statements such as, “you don’t look depressed”, or “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, you seem to get by just fine”.

Well I am sorry to say but any mental illness is not a facial expression. Anyone around you could be suffering from this and you will never get to know. However, in no sense that seem to imply that they are faking it. The extreme will that they summon to get up in the morning is proof enough of their string will and fight to live life. Moreover, there are those who do not wish to display any trace of their difficulty, simply because they assume themselves a burden on others.

The fundamental aspect is to understand their situation, trying to put yourself in their shoes. It is true that this will not help you find the depth of their everyday difficulties but they will know that someone out there cares and stands with them in the time of difficulty.

I recently came across an article whose title implied that coping with mental illness could help you revert to being human.

This is just a slap in the face of everyone who musters up courage in themselves to see the next day. There are those who live with it for years on end and not seek help of therapists, lest they be seen as anything less than they are. Though no logic is this acceptable that being under depression, or suffering from bipolar or schizophrenia should be equated to anything less than human. Relegating an obvious a serious illness to animalistic malady takes us back to square one when the very mention of it was enough to a person labelled as a lunatic, another blunder in the making.

Breaking the Stereotypical Milieu -The Social Stigma Surrounding Depression
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What is significant in this case is the ways in which you can help someone around you who is dealing with it all alone. You can start by not making them feel like they are a burden to others, and meaning it as well. That alone can work wonders. The point to realise here is it’s not easy for them to come out and discuss their problem, so when they in fact do, you should refrain from tooting your own horn and go on and on about the many hurdles in your life. Believe me it is not the same and will certainly not help. While therapy and having company boosts many, others might find it comforting going through medical help. So quit telling them that nature is the best antidepressant, because everyone has their own way of finding their peace of mind; it is not about what you think is right.

It is never a straight path coming back from depression, there is no point A to point B. It is a labyrinth of emotions, one with traps at every step, and voices that keep you back from coming out the other end. If you are struggling then fight anyone who tells you to give up and know that you are indeed loved. If you know someone going through it, stand by his or her side. Those with mental illness are anything but weak. Remember, the toughest battle is one that we find against our own mind.

Posted by Shilpi Saraswat

I am an avid bibliophile, and a sapiosexual. A self-proclaimed Tsondoku and a coffee addict, I'm a hopeless optimist who finds solace in reading, and writing is my sole companion. A proud supporter of messy hair and sweatpants.

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