Hi guys, so I’m going to talk about mental health disorders, more specifically depression. A 2006 study found that 1 in 4 Australians felt depression was a sign of weakness. I argue that depression is not a sign of weakness, that we as a community need to change how depression is viewed and stop discrimination against those who are depressed. Unfortunately depression is often viewed as the ‘common cold’ of mental disorders just because it is so prevalent in our society; over three hundred and fifty million people are suffering from depression, around the world, right now. I’m sure most, if not all, of those people have experienced stigma.
Stigma is what makes people with a mental disorder feel weak. It’s pretty much a mark of disgrace that sets people apart. When a person is labelled by their illness and seen as a part of a stereotyped group that is stigma. The same 2006 study said that 1 in 5 people would not employ a person with depression. It’s this sort of behaviour in our society that brings feeling of shame, blame and distress in those who suffer from depression. It also results in a reluctance to seek or accept help from others due to feelings of weakness. My dad has been depressed for a long time now. I asked him if his medical condition made him feel weak. He hesitantly replied “I’ve always seen my depression as a weakness. That’s why I refused to get help; I didn’t even want to acknowledge it.” Due to this fear of others thinking him ‘weak’, dad refused help and got worse. A lot worse. He became suicidal. I’ve seen how much the shame of depression can affect a person; I’ve seen it nearly destroy a life. I started wondering why there is this sense of shame in depression. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder last year and I started seeing a counsellor; Ned. Yesterday I asked Ned, who has extensive experience working in the fields of psychotherapy, counselling and psychological intervention, why he thinks mental disorders are looked down upon. He said “people are visually orientated. When people are visually sick, for instance they have a cast or stitches, others act empathetically toward them. Invisible injuries are seen differently. When the injury or illness is in the brain we can’t see it. If we can see something we can believe it and understand it, people are still primitive like that. Things that we don’t see and completely understand are scary, they become almost alien. A common coping mechanism is to ridicule this alien thing.” He stated that “those with mental disorders are categorised as ‘not functional’ because people don’t understand the illness.”
To help you all understand depression a bit better I’m going to try and summarize the science behind it. Although we do not know the exact cause of depression, we know that brain cell growth and connections play a large role in depression. Studies have shown that the hippocampus is much smaller in that of a depressed person than average. Other areas of the brain are also affected but this region in controls memory and emotion. The longer a person is depressed the smaller the hippocampus becomes the cells and networks literally deteriorate. Turns out that stress may be a main trigger in the decrease of new neurons in this area of the brain. In fact studies have shown when this region on the brain is regenerated and new neurons are stimulated mood improves. Neurons and chemicals may be your direct influencers