When news surfaced that Kylie Minogue had been diagnosed with breast cancer 1000s of woman worldwide went to have their breasts checked by their doctor and more importantly had mammograms. The impact that this announcement had on preventing breast cancer in woman was unprecedented. This morning many Australians and others around the world woke to hear that Gold Medalist and World Swimming Champion Ian Thorpe had been admitted to hospital for depression. The exact facts are still up in the air as the media speculate exactly what has happened and the reasons for his admission to hospital.
Despite the speculation Ian Thorpe has written about his fight with depression for the last decade in his autobiography and spoken publically about his struggle with depression. Whether or not the reports in today’s media are true or not the fact that there has been constant discussion about Ian Thorpes fight with depression should be a positive influence in raising awareness of depression, breaking down stigma, encouraging people to talk about their own depression, and providing the most vulnerable with the strength to seek treatment.
Most of all though I have been wondering if the widespread flooding of Thorpes struggle against the Black Dog can do for depression what Minogues diagnosis of breast cancer did for woman across the world.
Will Thorpe’s story of depression and his decade long fight bring to depression the awareness needed to encourage people to be open about their illness? Will this media surge make a dent in the wall of stigma that has shrouded those with depression? Will there be a flurry by the government to increase funding and services for those suffering mental illness?
Sadly if it wasn’t for Thorpe’s fame nobody would have been talking about depression today, just like nobody talks about the 1000s of deaths that occur each year from suicide, and just like how so many people are suffering in silence because of the stigma that has shrouded mental illness. While I may be wrong, I would doubt that there will be much change from these media reports because unlike breast cancer depression and mental illness aren’t seen with the same level of importance and sadly will not be received by the people responsible for making change for those with mental illness as it has when reports are of famous people with other diseases.
It is also a blemish on society and the government that to be famous, with no disrespect to Thorpe or other celebrities, is to receive immediate and accessible treatment options that most of us struggle to hear about much less access or afford.
I am just one voice amongst millions who live with depression. I may never have an impact or make a dent In making it easier for those with depression but it is a start and I encourage others living with this illness or know people who are suffering to have a voice. Until people speak up about depression and it’s unspoken impact upon individuals, their families, and their communities we will still face the shroud of silence that exists today. Many people like me who suffer in silence struggling to find the right treatment that they can access and affords ill undoubtedly continue and although It shouldn’t matter whether we are famous, rich or poor, working or unemployed, young or old, male or female we should all be able to talk about our illness without shame, judgement or stigma, we should have enough affordable services and support, we should all be treated equally regardless of illness or demographics. If we are sick we should all be entitled to receive the treatment to help us get better regardless of any attitude that society has.