The fear of stigma
I have depression, and sometimes one of the hardest things is the thought that there isn’t somewhere or someone I feel truly safe to talk through my experiences with.
This is because of the fear of the stigma around mental illness which means people are afraid to speak out due to the thought of potential consequences such as losing their job, career, family or friends. This is something very close to my heart, as I painfully experienced this fear, which probably made me even more ill as I battled to hide my debilitating condition.
We believe we are living in a modern world with liberal views where ‘anything goes’ but that doesn’t yet extend to mental illness. In this area we still have a long way to go. I know – I have experienced it.
I was at a coffee conference recently doing research for some cafes I am thinking of opening. One of the delegates there asked me why I was considering opening a café and I answered him quite matter of fact, explaining that when I suffered from depression I drank a lot of coffee and was disappointed by the quality of the food, coffee and service in the cafes I had spent time in. He replied, “I’m surprised that you admit to having suffered from depression.” His reply startled me and brought me right back to the reality of the stigma that still prevails. There is still a ‘NIMBY’ attitude towards people affected by mental illness.
I Work within the mental health sector, and it is easy to forget and be protected from the stigma that is still very much felt and shown in the big outside world. So I decided to set up www.depressioncanbefun.com to support people suffering from depression because I wanted to offer a safe place for people to be able to share their experiences, concerns and questions confidentially and securely discuss anything related to mental illness.
Talking about it and educating people about mental illness is the only way to reduce the stigma. It really is time to talk and it’s time to change. I hope that things such as my website will help us to move forward and break down the taboo even further, removing this fear and awkwardness about something that affects one in four people in our society.