I saw an article this week that got me thinking about how many people still consider depression to be synonymous with weakness. It was an article about a young man in America who was struggling with depression and anxiety. Not a terribly remarkable story given that around 14 million Americans are struggling with depression and anxiety.
What makes the story noteworthy is that the individual in question is an American football player. Whilst the sport itself leaves me entirely cold (and sleepy), I do respect the athleticism of the players, and I wouldn’t be the one to tell someone who runs into large muscular men for a living that they are weak. The story also inspired me to google who else suffered from depression, that's when I found that a highly successful model & actress as well as the second man on the Moon had struggled with depression. It seems like it is well beyond time to retire these ridiculous stereotypes about mental health. Each story from someone like Isaiah Renfro, Cara Delevingne and Buzz Aldrin will help chip away at this damaging stereotype.
Archimedes was right.
When someone breaks an arm, we don’t accuse them of having weak bones; we don’t tell them to pull themselves together and get on with it. We realise that there is something genuinely wrong and that there are simple steps which will help improve the situation. We don’t call them pathetic or weak, and we acknowledge that the force applied was sufficient to damage the bone. Yet we seem woefully unable to accept this when we talk about mental health.
It’s worth remembering some classical physics. Archimedes boasted “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”. The point being that if force is applied in the right way then anything will be affected. Even something as seemingly immovable as a planet. So we should not be surprised that in our lives we sometimes face the right combinations of stresses and strains that will affect our emotions and tip us into depression.
The number of people who equate depression with weakness is thankfully falling, but there are still people who think like this. I have had many clients in front of me referring to themselves as weak and pathetic for feeling the way they do. Society is getting there, but more awareness is needed. Depression happens. It’s not a thing to celebrate, but nor is it a thing to be ashamed of. It happens and it can be treated. That is the key thing to remember.
When we are depressed we often also feel hopeless, as if we are alone in the darkness, trapped in a void with no hope of escape. But just because it feels that way (really, really feels that way) it doesn’t mean it's true. It is possible to get better. Seek therapy if you think it would be helpful. There is no shame in it. If you have a broken arm you get it treated. Do the same for depression.
The current guidance from the National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence, a government body, is to offer CBT or IPT as a first choice of treatment, as these currently have the strongest evidence base. Whatever therapy you choose, choose something and push back against the depression.