From January 18, 2009
I just figured something out. I have been wondering why it is that when people suffer from a physical illness everyone rallies around and is loving and supportive, as we all should be; but when someone has a mental illness, something as simple as depression, it seems that people pull away or get tired of the constant sadness and the depressed person usually ends up alone - thereby making the illness worse!
So, I thought about it and what I came up with is that a physical illness, like cancer (God forbid) is seen as something not in the person's control, whereby mental illness is something we're told to just snap out of. Depression or just about any other kind of mental illness is seen as something under a person's control. And it's not.
I've been watching the Seven Deadly Sins on the History Channel and the sin of Sloth is being discussed. One historian says this, I paraphrase: In the ancient world, descriptions of depression are not accompanied with any particular stigma. But by 400 AD when Christianity became more prominent, the idea of depression as a sin became very prominent.
When the original creator of the eight sins (before Pope Gregory changed them to 7), and listed sloth as two sins (acedia and tristitia), he changed the way society viewed sloth. Mental illness was then seen as a illness of the SOUL - a PUNISHMENT from God. And THAT'S how mental illness became very shameful.
I wish more people understood that no one CHOOSES to live with mental illness anymore than a person chooses to live with diabetes or any other physical ailment. But people with mental illnesses are ostracized by society, and even their own friends.
People with mental illnesses are still seen as just plain old crazy, not worthy of attention and help. When a person who has just had surgery can't move to clean their house or make dinner, someone is always there to help. But when someone who suffers from debilitating depression can't get off the couch to clean or eat right, it is seen as a situation they put themselves in and should just get over and get up and do what they're supposed to do.
Friends and family of people with mental illness should realize that it's just as debilitating to be depressed as it is to have a cast on your leg. The desire is usually there; it's the energy that has been depleted. It's the overwhelming feeling of "what for", "why bother" and "it's not worth it anyway" that causes people who are chronically depressed to let their lives get away from them. It's not a choice; no one would choose to live like that.
Yes, there is medication to help. Absolutely, and just like any other illness or disease, when someone suffers from mental illness they should go to the doctor and discuss it, get medication and therapy. The sad part is, many insurance companies also treat mental illness like it's unimportant. They usually give a person 6 or so therapy sessions, or don't pay for the right medication. It's all the same crap as someone with a physical illness and health insurance (don't get me started on the health insurance industry). And one last fact . . . many people who suffer from a mental illness do not have health insurance.
So, I ask that if you know someone with a mental illness or who suffers from chronic depression, please - be more understanding. Lend a hand more. Talk to them. Let them cry on your shoulder. Everyone needs someone to cry to, someone to hold them when they do. Don't just stand there and ignore it. Make the effort . . . pretend they have a cast on their legs, cause sometimes that's what it feels like. And if it seems like it's not going away, that's because depression and mental illness ISN'T a broken bone. It's a broken brain . . . and that's not easily fixed. It's like having diabetes or cancer . . . and the longer it goes untreated or dealt with the worse it gets.
And yes, it can have the same fatal ending . . .