This is a blog post I have been wanting to do for a long time, but I have not had the courage or energy to do it before this moment… Here goes
Despite the somewhat radical attempts at reforming the NHS, moreover, mental health services across the country, one thing that a council of people cannot do is alter the mindset towards mental health issues. It has been a stereotype for a long time that people who suffer from mental health issues, or any medical issue, have to be suffering physically, in a way which is identifiable to the eye. This, however, is not the case; the fact that one in five young people experience mental health disorders, of which seventy per cent of who aged up to fifteen have not had appropriate interventions at ages when they could have been helped, is more than saddening. This begs the question, why is it that young people, now more than ever before, are experiencing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and many more mental health disorders?
Although the majorly unrealistic portrayal of people in the music, film and television industries aid in people feeling unworthy or not good enough for society, there are many other factors which act as catalysts for one developing some of the mental health issues mentioned in the former. For example, it took me a long time to realise that looking like various celebrities, who were and still are deemed to have perfect bodies and faces, was not going to happen. Despite this, I still saw myself unworthy of society – in the way I look and think; to be honest, to this day, I still do. Even when acknowledging that the reality of celebrity “beauty”, is not real, so ironic, one can still feel and question why they have been born and are a certain way, perhaps regarding their looks, mentality, characteristics and many other things that make us who we are.
Nevertheless, what started to form my depression was the death of a loved one, or perhaps the death of people close to me over a period of three years, in addition to the way I felt about myself, my academic career and many more factors. Although these deaths occurred over a long time and that people may see me doing well in education, it is important to be aware of the fact that built emotion can actually act as a driving force of depression when things start to pile up. From this, it is important to note that it is not just perhaps, “universal” or apparently “obvious” reasons which can start mental health issues, there can be numerous reasons for people to develop mental health disorders, which no one should be judgemental of.
Prior to my own medical diagnosis of depression, I searched up the actual definition on the internet (one of the worst things you can do is Google symptoms – everything leads to cancer, apparently), what I found was that no definition or website was the same. There may have been similar symptoms, such as fatigue, sadness and insomnia, but no website was the same. This allowed me to realise that everyone has a different experience of depression, which can evolve over time. To emphasise, from my own experience, it has been easy to relapse into depressive states, whether or not I have been taking my medication, especially after I thought I was doing well without it, and for most of the time I have been. Not only does this show that mental health disorders, similar to depression, can come and go, but also that they can evolve into different feeling and thoughts.
To reiterate, no diagnosis of depression is the same. There cannot be universal reasons and solutions for why people have mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, this is a common misconception, which can be likened to putting all of your eggs in the same basket. It is my personal belief that society still believes that depression and other mental health disorders are as a result of one apparent set cause or reason and will have one set “cure”. To me, this is driving the lack of help people are gaining for their mental health issues, moreover, because there is a lack of understanding from many people – whether it is those in the education, medical and/or political profession.
The family is also a vital factor for why someone might not be able to discuss or show their emotions: I am someone who absolutely hates showing my emotions to people, and only rarely can when things are at rock bottom. Although I am aware that I can talk to my parents about issues, it is definitely hard to, especially in an age of technology and social media, where the ability to vent feelings is available on different platforms such as forums and social media websites, whether it be to friends or perhaps people across the globe. The availability of specific platforms, such as 7Cups of Tea, can actually do wonders to help in times of depression. However, there are obviously people on the internet who can further jeopardise one’s thoughts and feelings, leading to detrimental cases where families do not know why their loved one has pursued actions of self harm/abuse, leaving home or even finding out that their loved one has taken their own life. The former examples merely reiterate that the importance of the family or a friendship unit being understanding and easy to talk to is paramount. Although some family/friendship units may be open, it is always good to look for ways in which one can check whether or not their partner, child or friends are doing well, without being too distant or intrusive. This medium would be perfect in looking for signs of developing forms of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and many other forms of mental health conditions one may be experience.
In my opinion, there should be an attempt to break down the communication difficulties and barriers both parents and children hold up, whether it be due to the inabilities to talk because of long work shifts, or a child being occupied by social media for the whole evening after school. With an attempt at the former suggestion, or if the promotion of this idea occurred, there could be a chance to not only improve a parent-child relationship, but also the leeway of being able to talk about taboo, embarrassing or sensitive topics like mental health issues, to occur.
It may be cliché to say, but although someone might always be smiling, laughing, talking and genuinely appearing as if they are fine, just remember, pretty much everyone is fighting a battle no one knows about. The reaction of many of my close friends, after my clinical diagnosis of depression went along the lines of: “You aren’t depressed, you’re usually happy, always grinning” and that, “You [I] have nothing to be depressed about”. In truth, I could go on about how people have these premeditated ideas of what depression is and who experiences it – it is these stereotypes which need to be eradicated.
Ask yourself what you think of when you hear the words, “depression” or “depressed”, if you just think it is sadness, bleakness and loneliness, it is not just that – the symptoms and effects are not as narrow, or even wide in some cases. People can experience: numbness, sporadic change of feelings, fatigue, insomnia, weight loss/gain and many more emotions or physical changes.
I’d lastly like to say thank you to all of my family, friends, and supporting staff at college (as well as my previous school) who have helped me through the difficult academic year that this has been.
Please remember that there is someone who you can always talk to, whether it be myself, your friends, family, place of education/work or organisations and charities which are set up to help those who are going through tough times (contact details of them below).
The stigma, discrimination and stereotypes around mental health are detrimental to those who are experiencing them and it is the former we need to work on.
Peace and love,
020 7336 8445
Provides information and advice for anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person.
The Very Important Kids website has been created by YoungMinds for young people affected by mental health problems. Here you can get advice, share experiences and feed into the work they do.
Free, national helpline for children and young people in trouble or danger.
Listening, support and information service run by students for students.