a note on the culture of depression

It can prove difficult to stay positive in the world today. Between gig economies, dating scenes, and social media, it’s easy for your mood to see-saw from different extremes. Add that to the horrors going on in the world right now like London, Manchester, Syria, and the U.S. (I’m talking about you, Trump) and Turkey, it’s no wonder that more and more young people are being treated for mental health issues.

This isn’t a post aimed to cure mental illness. I will not go down the route of others who advocate along the lines of “depression? shur have a cuppa tea, be grand” – they are just frustrating. However, if I’ve learned anything from my eight years of CBT and therapy, it’s that the small things can be the catalyst in creating better states of mind.

But before I go into that, let’s have a look at depression and suicide rates.

I’m reading an insanely good book at the moment that sort of inspired me to write this post. I’m actually planning to write a proper post on it once I’m finished. The book is written by a woman called Sue Klebold, and is a part-memoir part-study on her life as a mother of one of the Columbine High School Massacre killers. Dylan Klebold was one of two students that killed 13 innocent people on April 20th 1999 in Littleton Colorado before turning the guns on themselves. Dylan’s story in particular hit me hard as he was someone who appeared to have no symptoms of any mental health issues before he committed the atrocity. In fact, his parents thought he was getting on just fine.

Of course, things were not ok, and the consistent, pestering issues racking inside Klebold’s head turned a once seemingly-normal child into a mass murderer.

The reason why I brought this up was because Sue writes about ‘brain health’ in place of ‘mental health’ and discusses the prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation among young people (some as young as 12) and our lack of ability to pick up on it. I wrote to Sue not long after I begun reading her book and discussed with her the tendency to misinterpret signs of depression and anxiety in young people as just ‘growing up’ or ‘adjusting to life’. And very often, by the time these symptoms are actually seen as legitimate issues, it’s too late.

Ireland has a particularly high suicide rate. We have the fourth highest rate of teen suicide. For every 100,000 people, 10.3% of adults take their own lives. It’s a horrible fact and there’s certainly a feeling of indignation among communities that bear the brunt of this but a lot of people think that “it’ll never happen to us”.

The reasons why suicides happen are mainly more social than psychological. And with the advent of social media, despite the injunction placed on news outlets on reporting suicides, it’s difficult to not come across it in daily life. In some places, it’s treated as a gag joke, ie, Anchorman 2, The Simpsons, others are accused of glamourising it, ie, 13 Reasons Why. Could this be the reason why it is becoming more prevalent in our society?

I don’t know, I’m not a sociologist.

However, what I do know is how to spot it in other people, and even more so, in yourself. And knowing that putting your eggs into one basket when it comes to treatment is never a good idea.

If you are suffering from depression, as difficult as this could be, seek help. It doesn’t have to be a therapist or a counsellor, simply going to your GP will help. Getting a professional opinion may be daunting but it’ll be a weight off your shoulders when you are told it is treatable. Co-operate: take the medication you need to if prescribed, go to the group sessions and the one-on-one therapy. Even if it goes against every fibre of your being, swallow your pride and go. You’ll be one step closer to getting better than sitting in nothingness.

If you suspect someone you love is depressed, be gentle. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t interrogate, don’t harass and god, don’t force them to do something they don’t want to. Getting better starts from within, you can’t make someone go to the doctor if they’re not ready. Being supportive and understanding, and not frustrated, is the only way to gently helping anyone find professional help.

If you’re semi-depressed, by which I mean, having a rough few weeks but either already take medication, or are just down in general, perhaps in a waiting period, you’re best to focus on the small things in life. Seek out what really makes you passionate, what makes you happy, even if it’s drawing or writing or editing pictures of your dogs. Nurture it, and just like a flower, your happiness will grow and blossom into other things. Don’t give up on anything, just keep going, I promise it will be worth it.

There’s a lot more to getting better than #PositiveVibes but it’s a start. You need to be gentle with yourself, treat yourself the way you’d treat a puppy you absolutely adore, take things at your own pace, and hold your frustration. Don’t let guilt or fear creep in and certainly don’t let anyone else’s get to you.

You are the most important person to you.



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