November 22, 2013

MaggieI am the 1 in 4. I am one of the 25% of people who suffer from a mental health problem in any given year. It seems like a shockingly high number doesn’t it?

When statistics come out for other illnesses, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, no-one bats an eyelid, because we all know someone who has been affected by these; often someone that we number among our nearest and dearest.

But mental health problems? For many, they are things that happen to other people. There is still such a stigma in our society that people don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health.

Look around at your friends, family, neighbours, colleagues. On average, 1 in 4 will have or have had some issue with their mental health, but we never hear about most of them because people are too ashamed or embarrassed to “come out” as mentally ill.

I have struggled with severe depression... I am also diabetic

I have struggled with severe depression on and off for over four years. Within that period there have been good times and there have been bad times. I honestly don’t think I would still be here today without the support of the people around me. And yet, most people I know have no idea I am depressed and I wouldn’t dream of talking to them about it.

For the sake of contrast, I am also a type 1 diabetic. My family all know this, my friends all know this, and many colleagues and acquaintances do too. I am very open with my diabetes and happy to talk about it.

I don't fear judgement for my diabetes

So, why the difference? These are both long term, chronic conditions that affect my everyday life. The fact is that I don't fear judgement for my diabetes. When I tell people I am depressed, I worry that they are thinking I am weak or pathetic. That I am using it as an excuse. Even that I am a danger to myself.

I worry that people will look at me and treat me differently. That blossoming friendships or relationships may flounder because I have too much emotional baggage. And the saddest part is that these are not just paranoid concerns. These are real reactions that I have had from real people.

So why I am I putting this out there for the whole internet to read if I am so scared of how people will react? Because this is not how it should be.

I don’t believe that people that react this way are bad people, or are trying to hurt me. A lot of people simply don’t how to respond because it’s a new experience for them. They are wary, thanks to media portrayals of those with a mental illness as either dangerous, pathetic, or trying to beat the system. They are scared of the unknown. It doesn't have to be this way. People need to know about mental illness, how to talk about it, and how to support those affected. We can change and save lives. It’s Time to Talk.

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