The tragic suicide of Robin Williams is tangible proof that depression doesn’t pick it’s targets based on socio economic class, race, religion or sex.
Depression can strike anyone at any time. According to the American CDC report in 2010, they found that at any given time 9.1% of the American population met the criteria for current depression (significant symptoms for at least 2 weeks before the survey), including 4.1% who met the criteria for major depression.
In Australia, BeyondBlue states that around 45% of people will experience some form of mental health issue in their lifetime. Also, that at any given time there are 1 million Australians dealing with depression.
The Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom backs up the worrying statistics with their own findings that between 8 to 12% of the population experience depression in any year.
If 1 in 10 of us will experience depression at some point in our lives, why is it still a taboo subject to discuss? Why is it still blanketed with stigma? Depression can affect anyone at any time. CEO’s, Celebrities, Moms and Dads, Children, Builders, Bankers, anyone. No one chooses to have depression just as no one chooses to have cancer or diabetes. Society, you and I, need to get depression out of hiding. Get it into the main stream media where it can be talked about openly and honestly. Where people can be educated and develop an understanding of this terrible and debilitating condition.
I was raised as a rough and tumble boy. Every time I fell off my bike or got hurt playing Cowboys and Indians I was told to toughen up. Stop crying, boys don’t cry. I was no different than millions of other kids and my father and his advice were no different than millions of other fathers. This “be tough” mentality continues to influence us as we grow up. It permeates through society and continually reinforces in both our conscious and subconscious minds the fact that we have to ignore our emotions. Bottle them up and store them away somewhere.
Sadly, we know now this is an unhealthy attitude, and for many it trains us to bottle up our emotions. We end up never discussing how we feel with anyone. If we do share, our minds tell us we are being weak, which in turn undermines what we have been conditioned to believe to be acceptable as a strong mature adult.
In fact, this is the absolute worst thing anyone can do when everything just seems to be just a little too hard. When things start mounting up, we start self-sabotaging our future by not dealing with today’s issues.
I have lived through this situation and reached the point when enough was enough and I decided to check out of this life. Luckily for me and my family, I realized with about 2 seconds to spare that this was not the answer.
This was the turning point for me. Finally, in the bottomless pit of despair and hopelessness I realized I needed to sort my head out. It was suddenly clear to me that I wasn’t coping very well with the cards life was dealing me.
It was at that very second when I was staring at what was left of my car that I knew I needed help. Within 48 hours I had seen my doctor, been prescribed antidepressants and had started talking with a therapist, a counselor. It didn’t take very long before I started to see the sun break through the dark storm clouds that had filled my head for so long.
The message I want to leave with you today is that there is always hope. There is always a reason to keep moving, to keep momentum going forward. Even when it seems too hard, when you cannot see a point to fighting the black dog of depression. Remember you are here for a reason. We all are. You may not be able to see or understand your reason at a given point. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason, it just means you are having trouble seeing it at the moment.
Accept the realization you have depression and need help. Talk to family, friends, your doctor, a therapist. Someone, anyone, that you feel comfortable with. Arrange to spend time talking about what ever place your head is at. My experience and everything I have ever read, prove that talking to someone, can often be the turning point that starts you on your own personal path to recovery.
By Ian Knabel
*References: Please visit the websites of the CDC, BeyondBlue, and Mental Health Foundation for more information.