One of the greatest things I have learnt since being sick with severe depression is that it is a lonely place to be. For most, family and friends aren’t around as much as they use to be. In fact, in some cases, like with me, they are never seen again. This is the sad reality of mental illness, being deserted by those closest to you, with no explanation but what you suspect is because being around someone with severe depression feels unhealthy, it is too hard, and they don’t want to be around you.
One of the biggest factors contributing to depression, and which is highlighted as a requirement for getting better is the support of family and friends. R U OK? promotes that we should start the conversation with those closest to us to ensure that they are okay, this is all good and well if you have people around you with the courage to ask the question, and have the understanding and support to talk to someone who is not okay.
The hardest thing to deal with when you are severely depressed is the loneliness that this condition puts on you. Dealing with people walking away from you because of depression, suicide attempts, and the ups and downs of dealing with a mental illness is impossible when you are so sick with a condition that prevents you from fighting for yourself. Knowing that you no longer have those people in your lives or their support is heart breaking. To get them back in your life is a very hard challenge that most of us with severe depression fail at, because once you are scarred by the cuts of depression you are scarred for life, and for most it is easier just to stay away.
Being hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital for depression brings to the forefront the ability of people to ‘not want to know’ where you are, and why? You can guarantee that you will not receive a ‘Get Well’ card, you will not receive flowers, or peoples well wishes – you hear from nobody! When you are in a psychiatric ward, you are to the world outside lost, forgotten, and unsupported in any attempts to get better, and live a normal healthy life. It is not that I expect sympathy, or for people to say poor you, you just want to know that there are people there for you, thinking of you. This level of support goes a long way in helping a depressed person to reach a level of wellness, and to continue to have the support of those around you is beneficial in ensuring you maintain a level of wellness, and you have people around you to ask “R U OK?”.
The stigma built up around mental illness of all kinds has placed those with these conditions in a lonely place where illness drives away loved ones, friends due to lack of understanding, the image that exists on people with mental illness, and psychiatric hospitals. In this day and age, where information is readily available on the internet I find it hard to believe that people whose life is affected by knowing someone with depression or other mental illnesses, that some level of awareness, understanding of the condition can not be reached. Where instead of illness driving people away, awareness of mental illness can bring people closer together. What are people so scared of when it comes to depression, and other mental illnesses? What is so bad about mental illness that you are prepared to lose a loved one, a friend, or a colleague?
Nobody is denying that living with, or being friends with, or being around a work colleague, anyone with depression is easy, because it is not. There is a lot to deal with from moods, to lack of communication, worry, stress, not knowing what to say, or what to do, it is difficult, and for people who do not understand what severe depression is, it is even harder. A lot is being done to improve the awareness of depression, and mental illness in the community through BeyondBlue, R U OK? Day, Sane Australia, and Headspace who are all working to improve the communication with those around us to ensure that people with a mental illness are supported, and helped/encouraged to seek treatment for their illness.
Depression alone affects 1 in 5 Australians at some time in their life time, this statistic is set to increase in the coming years. With rates of mental illness increasing it is becoming more important for every Australian, individual, to understand mental illness, the affects of these conditions, and how each of us can support one another through mental illness. It is time that everyone stopped putting their heads in the sand, and pretending that these illnesses don’t exist in our society, it is time that each and every one of us learns about mental illness, so that we can support people with these conditions. It is expected that most Australians at some time in their lifetime will know someone with a mental illness, like any disease, we need to learn more, so that people sick with these conditions can feel supported, not alone, and know that their remains a place in society for them. Instead of taking the easy option of pretending it is not happening, or ignoring someone sick with mental illness, or being a coward and walking away take the initiative to start a conversation about mental illness, be there as a friend, a loved one, or a colleague, and work in assisting those with mental illness around you to regain their health, and their lives.
Parts of my storey may be confronting and some may find upsetting, if you find yourself upset and depressed I encourage you to ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224636.