Tackling the stigma surrounding the illness 1 million Australians have

Depression is something that we don’t talk about, not nearly enough anyway. The stigma surrounding depression has existed over decades,

Depression is something that we don’t talk about, not nearly enough anyway. The stigma surrounding depression has existed over decades, and it is surprising that it still exists now – when it is among the leading causes of deaths around the world, and affects those of all ages.

Especially for those in their golden years, one of the side effects of other conditions like diabetes and chronic pain is depression. Early beliefs about the causes of mental health problems, such as demonic or spirit possession, were ‘explanations’ that would almost certainly give rise to reactions of caution, fear and discrimination.

One of the greatest issues for those that are on the road to working on their mental health is that society today still chooses to stigmatise depression and mental health issues. People are petrified of telling others they are getting treatment for depression, or that they have depression even, for fear of being excluded or discriminated against. Of course, there’s always a chance that their circles might accept them – but because of the prevalence of stigma, people don’t ask or talk about it, and therefore they choose to suffer in silence.

Those close to the people suffering from depression sometimes react by questioning and commenting the strangest things, such as ‘What is wrong with you?” or “How is that possible, I’ve never had it, how can you?” or even “Depression is just an idea, it’s not real.” That is why sufferers shy away from saying anything, they are always fearful about ‘What would people think?’ It is important for people who know someone suffering from this illness (yes, it is an illness that requires treatment) to understand and empathise with them. They need love, understanding and support if they are to make any positive progress on their journey to better health.

Depression is not selective – anyone and everyone is at risk of getting diagnosed with depression. This includes someone as close as your family member, or a celebrity you have admired from a distance. Some people are great at putting on a front and being ‘chameleons’ in society, and people are always so taken aback to find out that they were suffering.

The case of beloved actor Robin Williams from a couple of years ago is a prime example. People could not digest the fact that one of the comedic greats of the film industry suffered all his life with this illness, and found his only escape to be an absolute one, and that initiated a conversation. It is so vital that people talk about it, and not just when something bad happens – such as a suicide attempt, failed or otherwise. Knowing that there is no stigma associated with the condition will enable those that feel broken by it to fight just a little bit more. They will be able to have a healthy road to recovery while seeking professional help, knowing that there is love and support available for them from their loved ones and those they interact with.

If you need someone to talk to, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or contact Beyond Blue 24/7 here.

Tell us, how would you tackle the stigma around depression?