It was recently World Health Day and the theme this year was 'Depression'.
Depression, though unfortunately so common, is very much associated with stigma and taboo.
People living with depression can all too often suffer in silence, loneliness and isolation.
Often, individuals suffering with depression tend to put on a mask of joy, of 'being fine', for the world to see. A mask to hide their shame, or their embarrassment for feeling what they feel.
Our society is, I feel, responsible for this shame. It is written within 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.
'depression is not just sadness, it is a complex state settled in time'
Strength is advertised as being confident, outgoing, not crying, being able to dismiss negative emotions and thoughts on our own. Strength is advertised as not being sensitive, not being vulnerable, not asking for help.
Men are often 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. 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 when experiencing depression.
The stigma and taboo associated with depression are what often pushes people to isolate themselves. Individuals suffering with depression need to be listened to, heard and supported. They need their friends and family to be able to acknowledge their state without judging them, without dismissing the reasons for 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, and often clumsy way of trying to help by suggesting the person, "cheer up" or "get over it", can help facilitate the fake mask one with depression will put on. This mask is dangerous! It is an open door to feeling that the hurt and despair are bottomless and unbreakable.
'Fighting depression starts by fighting the stigma, misconceptions and taboo about emotions'
If you wish to support someone living with depression, 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 person in your life who dares to share their emotions, feelings and thoughts. Thank them and support them. Try to 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, however don't wait for them to come to open up. Don't be afraid. Don't care 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 low to connect with anyone.
Fighting depression starts by fighting the stigma, misconceptions and taboo 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 help and support. If you feel you might be depressed, talk to your friends or family, or to your GP, who may refer you to services that can help.
Lucas is a qualified Psychosynthesis Counsellor (MBACP), offering notably a great understanding of the imperatives, aspirations and struggles of creative/artistic and/or corporate individuals. Lucas is dedicated to helping individuals unfold and express their identity (cultural/gender/sexual & personality) while improving their relationships to themselves & others (including body image & sexuality). You can contact Lucas here