Caitlin, April 1, 2019

Someone can have depression but spend their day laughing and smiling. People with depression can have good days too

I’ve always been rather private when it comes to my mental health. In 2019 I am willing to change that. I really wish mental health wasn’t such a taboo subject and that people did not feel ashamed to speak of their struggles, because it’s not our fault. But that’s the issue with mental illnesses, they cause you to overthink and you end up thinking it is your fault. It’s not.

I owe a lot to my counsellor (who has dealt with me week in and week out for over two years). I think that it’s important to stop antidepressants and counselling being such a taboo topic. People are ashamed to admit that they take these daily, or are ashamed to even ask for them. I have been on antidepressants for five months now and when I was placed on them, I was too scared to even tell some of my closest friends because I was scared of being judged. It’s important to recognise that pills aren’t a magic cure for mental illnesses, but that they can help motivate you to take the steps toward feeling better.

As a society we need a better approach toward mental health and we need to stop making assumptions. For one, mental illness is different for everyone. Not everyone experiences it in the same way. That also means that people’s problems should not be dismissed just because they don’t present them in the typical form that we expect. Someone can have anxiety but go on a stage in front of thousands. They have overcome the fear, but it doesn’t mean that their anxiety doesn’t exist, or it is less important than someone else’s.

Someone can have depression but spend their day laughing and smiling. People with depression can have good days too, and they’re also great at faking a smile for the benefit of those around them.

You may think someone is “fine” because they’re posting on social media, but social media is fake. It’s usually a presentation of the best parts of our lives and very rarely includes the worst parts.

We also need to stop saying things such as “it could be worse”, “you’re overreacting”, “get over it” or “snap out of it”. These are the kinds of statements which tick over and over in people’s minds and can lead them to think that they shouldn’t speak up. People are afraid of judgement. Don’t make people feel as though they are being judged.

We need to stop saying that people are “attention seeking”, because speaking about your struggles is something that most people find very difficult to do. As someone who struggles a lot with anxiety issues, I often feel I am being judged when in retrospect it may have been a harmless comment. It is so important to be kind to anyone, at any chance you get, because you have no idea how much your words and actions can impact a person’s mental state. This goes for both positive and negative acts or comments, they can both have a lasting impact.

Oh and PLEASE, if you notice someone has scars or wounds which you believe may have been caused by self-harm, do not ask them about it in public. By all means, ask if they’re doing okay, but do it in a one on one situation. Asking someone about this topic when they’re with a group of people is likely to make them clam up, not start a conversation about it which could help them get the help they need.

If you think someone is struggling mentally, just check they’re okay, let them know they matter to you. And to anyone struggling, it is OKAY to want to be alone, alone time can be great , but being in a comfortable environment with friends and family can do a lot of good as well.

A simple “how are you doing?” can go a long way, to let someone know that you are thinking of them. You don’t have to understand what they’re going through, you just need to be there for them. 

And if someone tries to open up to you, let them. Sometimes they don’t even need you to say anything, they just need to feel like someone is listening and they care.

I hope that everyone, and I mean everyone, not just my close friends, knows that I am here. I know it is an overused statement but I truly mean it. I admit I’m not always great at giving advice but I take myself for a great listener. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.