Do you know what scares the hell out of patriarchal society even more than feminists? Talking about mental health, its promotion, support and, in some cases, treatment.
In particular, my friends, after having navigated between the deep and thorny waters of sexuality and obesity in the past few weeks, today we are going to talk about an equally hard topic: mental health and, more in specific, depression.
Depression has been defined by the World Health Organisation as “a depressed mood or loss of pleasure or interest in activities for long periods of time“. But do not let be fooled by that, you will not see depressed people crying all day and sobbing in the middle of the office. Depression is more subtle than that, it hides very well in our daily routine, between a date for a coffee and a big laugh with our colleagues.
But, before going deeper into that, let’s take a look at a couple of numbers that can help us to understand the situation. Globally, 5% of adults suffer from depression, especially women, and 15% of Irish adults with mental health issues suffer from it.
With these numbers you might think stigma and preconceptions around it would be pretty much absent. Wrong, my friends. In an interesting study conducted in 2022, 68% of the interviewees believe that being treated for mental health issues is a sign of personal failure.
So, let me try to get this straight: depression and mental health issues are not a decision, people do not wake up in the morning and opt for a good dose of panic attacks to spend the day in a new way. Mental health difficulties are caused by a bunch of factors altogether: biological, environmental, and behavioural. But, I assure you, we do not get to decide whether we have or not bipolar disorder, we do not get to choose if having an eating disorder.
But do you know what we can decide? If and when being treated for that. The Budget 2023 has allocated 1.2 billion euros to Mental Health Services in Ireland, a good few million more than in 2022. I am aware that they might not seem enough and we still have to wait for ages even just to see a GP, but at least it is a starting point.
Sometimes, however, this continuous fight against your mind becomes something too hard to deal with. In Ireland one in 10 people with mental health issues tried to commit suicide: do not think “How could people around them not notice how bad they were?” because it often comes without warning.
Depression, in particular, can be especially tricky. Forget the idea of someone crying all the time, that’s old fashion and, let me say that, stereotypical. Depression hits you in more subtle ways: you start feeling like every sound and movement appears muffled, doing the most simple things like brushing your teeth and combing your hair looks like fighting against an (h)angry family of bears, while the only one you are fighting against is yourself.
So, in the end, you might wonder, what can we do if we know someone with mental health issues? The HSE gives us a few useful tips to help them, always reminding us not to endanger ourselves: listen without interrupting, talk about the concerns you noticed and, most importantly, ask for professional help.
In all this, however, do not forget that some people do not want to be helped, as well as do not accept the possibility of being in need. Once again, the HSE encourages you to be supportive, listen to what they have to say and remember that the best thing you can do for them is to be there.
If, my friends, however, you are on the other side, on the one where you feel like even just making yourself breakfast feels like a marathon, do not be scared: validate yourself and your feelings, allow yourself to need help and forgive you for not being at the top like you always would like to be. That’s ok. But also remember that you are surrounded by people who are willing to support you, even when you don’t see them or you feel like a burden to them. And, whenever you are ready, ask for help.