I was twelve years old and I remember the day as if it only happened yesterday. Me and my dad had just come out of The Book Shop in St John’s Precinct, Liverpool, and we decided to sit down in the canteen whilst we were waiting on my Mum and to sister to finish their shopping. He took out the book he just bought me which was Harry Potter and the order of Phoenix which I still haven’t read to this day (so for that I apologise dad!) although the message on the front page I read over and over again.
The message reads “It’s easy to criticise, but it’s hard to understand” written in black pen by my dad, Eddie Herbert. At the time he wrote that message and explained it’s meaning, I wasn’t aware that he was suffering with depression. Sadly, two years later, in March 2006, he lost his battle with depression and took his own life and it was when dealing with his loss, that I fully understood the message he was telling me.
The message was that we can easily criticise a person, however, until we know the full story, we will never understand what it is they are going through. The message he told fits perfectly with depression and I take his words and share them with those who read this article in the hope that by the end of it, they have a better understanding of depression and the effects it has on the individual.
“Suicide is selfish”, “How can they be depressed when they have all that money”, “Just deal with it”. It is sad that in a world where so many lives our lost due to depression, these quotes are said so frequently. Therefore I am going to take each one of those quotes and explain why these are incorrect in the hope that it will change people’s perceptions of depression.
“Suicide is selfish” – Suicide is not a selfish act, it is often the only option a person feels they have when their depression has overpowered them. Many people believe it to be selfish as they have left their loved ones behind; however a depressed person might feel that, by taking their own life, they will be a burden off their shoulders. So, in this sense, suicide is actually an act of unselfishness. They are doing what they feel is right for them and their family. It’s easy to criticise and say suicide is selfish, but it’s hard to understand why they do it until you know the full story.
“How can they be depressed when they have all that money” – Robin Williams, Gary Speed, Robert Enke. These are just three names out of a number of famous people who took their own life due to depression. The message it tells us is that no matter what people may think money doesn’t buy happiness. Anyone in the world can be affected by depression whether you have £5 to your name or £5 million to your name. If you ask any famous people who have suffered with depression whether they would give up everything they had to overcome depression the answer you would get is yes. Spending X amount of money won’t help a person overcome depression, having people around them and getting the help required will. It’s easy to criticise rich and famous people who have depression, but unless you know the reasons why, it’s hard to understand.
“Just deal with it” – Telling a person who suffers with depression to deal with it, is the same as telling a person who suffers with cancer to deal with it. Many people may disagree with me by saying cancer is a serious illness, however so is depression and it’s that message we need to get across. Yes, many lives our lost to cancer but many lives our lost to depression too. It is the leading cause of death of men under the age of 50. That alone should be enough for us to end the stigma surrounding depression and ensure more is done for those suffering. It’s easy for us to criticise someone we know and tell them to deal with whatever is going on in their life but unless we are living in their shoes, it’s hard for us to understand.
By giving a brief explanation on these three quotes regarding depression, the message my dad told is quite clear. Rather than jump to conclusions and criticise people, we should take a step back and put ourselves in their shoes. Unless we know exactly what it is going on their life, it is hard for anyone but them to understand.