On this Friday 7th of April 2017 it is World Health Day and the theme this year is 'Depression'.
This is a highly necessary theme to talk about. Indeed, depression, - though unfortunately so common -, faces many stigmas and taboos. Depression is something mostly suffered in silence, loneliness, isolation. Often, individuals suffering depression tend to put a mask of joy, of 'being fine', for the world to see. A mask to hide their shame, their embarrassment for feeling what they feel: loneliness, intensive boredom, intense fatigue, meaninglessness, lack of interest, despair, hurt, self-loathing, hopelessness, sleeping trouble, eating disorders, self-harm, thoughts of suicide...
Our society is greatly responsible for this shame written in our collective unconscious, the shame of being vulnerable, the fear of appearing weak. We live in a society which has a sick idea of what strength is. Strength is advertised as being confident, outgoing, not crying, being able to dismiss negative emotions and thoughts on our own, and performing in our life roles (The Wife/Husband, The Good Son/Daughter, The Over-performing Employee, etc.). Strength is advertised as not being sensitive, not being vulnerable, not asking for help. Men are the first victims of this stigma. "Be a man", "don't be a wuss", "boys don't cry"... It is printed in our collective unconscious and makes the shame of feeling negative emotions even more insidious. This is all so wrong! Truth is: there is no stronger strength than acknowledging our vulnerability, our sensitivity and hurt and dare speaking about it, dare seeking help. Tears, vulnerability and emotions are nothing to be ashamed of. They are not weaknesses. Admitting that we are humans going through difficult feelings, emotions & thoughts, owning our heartfulness is the ultimate expression of strength; especially in dark times such as depression. As Brené Brown expressed so articulately, there is a 'power of vulnerability'.
The stigmas & taboos about depression & suicide are what pushes people to isolate themselves when they feel depressed, or even when they just feel low, although what they need exactly the opposite. Individuals suffering depression need to be listened to, heard, supported. They need their friends and family to be able to acknowledge their state without judging them, without dismissing the reasons of their despair or some of the related emotions. Because depression is not just sadness, because it is a complex state settled in time, too often people tend to get bored or annoyed of hearing or seeing someone depressed. Their exasperation, their clumsy way of trying to cheer and asking individuals from depression to "suck it up", "fake it until [they] make it", "to get over it", participate to the fake mask one with depression will put on. This mask is dangerous! It is an open door to feeling the hurt and despair are bottomless and unbreakable. This is notably the mask of people taking their lives before their entourage could see things were dramatically and seriously wrong.
For the entourage, I would say: please, learn to listen, to be patient, understanding and loving as long as it is needed. Learn to accept without judgement, not to dismiss or show exasperation. Thank the individuals in your life who dare sharing their emotions, feelings and thoughts. Thank them and support them. Stop using 'sensitive', 'vulnerable', 'emotional' etc. as negative labels. Individuals owning their heartfulness in light and dark times should be labelled 'brave', 'beautiful', 'strong', 'human'.
To everyone, please talk, share your inner world, - even and especially in your darkest moments but don't wait for them to come to open up. Don't be afraid. Don't care of what people will think or say. And, please, ask for help! Don't wait for the moment when you will feel too overwhelmed and too down to connect with anyone. Fighting depression starts by fighting the stigmas, misconceptions and taboos about emotions. Let's all learn to share our inner world with friends and family as commonly as possible. Let's connect and see how much we are alike, how much we need each other and that this need isn't a weakness but our collective strength.
Depression is a serious condition that requires all the help it can get. If you feel you might be depressed, talk to your beloved ones, to a GP, a Counsellor/Psychotherapist/Psychiatrist... Get all the assistance you need. I am here to help, and so are many other understanding people. Reach out!
Please find below some inspirational videos. You can find more on my YouTube channel.