Though our society has come a long way in the perception of mental illness, stigmas around this topic are still alive and well. Stigma can be blatant or subtle; sometimes, it’s as small as an individual word or phrase. Here are some tips for choosing the right words and using language to fight mental illness stigma.
Depression Stigma and Self-Stigma
Although our society has come a long way in the treatment and perception of mental illness, there’s no doubt that stigmas surrounding these illnesses are still alive and well. Societal stigma can lead to self-stigma, and both can be very damaging to people with depression. Here we'll discuss common stigmas about depression, why they're problematic, and what you can do to fight them.
Last week, an online friend died by suicide. While I am still grieving and in shock, I am not surprised. They had been struggling with depression for a while. As someone living with clinical depression for years, I know that thoughts of self-harm and suicide are standard. It is hard not to act on them, and doing so can be fatal. Depression may or may not be visible, but it is always cruel. It impacts every aspect of one's life and can even cut it short. She is the first friend who I have lost to death by depression, and I hope she is the last. However, metaphorically speaking, depression causes one to lose friends. I know this because it has happened to me quite a few times. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
It's no secret that depression can affect your behavior -- that it can cause you to do and say things you wouldn't ever otherwise do or say. But when should you hold yourself accountable for bad behavior? And to what extent does mental illness excuse bad behavior? What kind of allowances should we expect in times of poor mental health, and what kind of allowances should we be prepared to grant to others? When is depression simply not an excuse?
The title of this blog is "Coping with Depression." In the past, I've used it to talk about ways to feel productive, beat procrastination, and improve relationships during a depressive episode. But the reality is that some days, "coping" just means surviving through the worst days. So, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Month, I would like to offer some simple tips on how to get through when "getting through" seems impossible.
The iceberg theory is a frequently cited model of behavior which states that a person's behavior can only be properly understood in the context of the factors that caused it. What a person does is "the tip of the iceberg"-- what we don't see are the emotional, social, cultural, and other factors that lie beneath the surface and cause that behavior.
Parenting is always a divisive topic. Every generation thinks it has found the trick to child-rearing, and every new parent vows to avoid the mistakes their own parents made in raising them. Attitudes towards discipline, attachment, nutrition, education, and play are constantly evolving, but one thing that never seems to change is the idea that crying is a bad thing and that the goal when a child cries is to get them to stop at any cost. This attitudinal hangover from the days when children were to be seen but not heard is incredibly worrying and something we should resist as parents in order to safeguard our children's mental wellbeing.
I missed my last scheduled blog post due to illness, but in truth, I was relieved because aside from the gastric flu wreaking havoc with my digestive system, I didn't have anything to talk about. I was (and am) doing well. When I sat down to write this week's piece, I had a similar bittersweet realization. This blog is "Coping with Depression," but at the moment, I don't feel as though I am "coping" with anything in particular. I am, for all intents and purposes, recovered from depression. Does that mean I should give up writing this blog? I think not.
Those empty "inspirational" quotes are a particular pet peeve of mine. Facebook and Instagram are littered with them, and the more of them I see, the more aggravated I get. It's not just that the same ones seem to do the virtual rounds every few months ("Live, Laugh, Love" anyone?), it's that they have become so ubiquitous that they feel insincere.
We all want to feel like we are contributing to the world, but as the world grows more competitive, it can be hard to feel that we are doing "enough"— as employees, partners, parents, or just as members of society. This has resulted in a culture of "competitive tiredness," in which we measure our worth according to how exhausted we are and seek recognition of that exhaustion from the people around us as proof that we are "doing enough." It causes friction in personal relationships and is terrible for our mental health. So why have we become so invested in the idea that to be fulfilled, you also have to be knackered?