If physical illness were treated like mental illness, the conversation about mental health would be very different.
Let’s talk about depression for example:
Depression isn’t just a bad day, a bad year, a bad life. It isn’t just feeling sad, feeling lonely or being lazy. It isn’t an adjective for explaining first-world problems, and it isn’t something that can be “fixed.”
The struggle IS real, and it’s terrifying. It’s the most frightening thing on the planet to not have control over your thoughts or your emotions. You’re stuck in the most horrible place of your mind, and there’s no way out in sight. It’s when you’re in the deepest, darkest trenches of life, and it feels like the dirt above you is just closing in.
Depression is unpredictable. It comes in waves, and it isn’t picky about who it claims as its victim.
The mother of three.
The most successful man on Wall Street.
The daughter of a pastor.
The nephew of an Olympian.
The wife of a doctor.
The brother of a celebrity.
The most popular football quarterback.
Nobody is immune, and nobody can prevent it. Depression is scary—It’s debilitating, and it’s deadly.
When you break your arm or get a cold, you seek medical treatment. If you have a headache or get the stomach flu, there’s a pill you can take to fix it.
But depression isn’t like breaking your arm.
In society, if you break your arm, people will rush to help you. They’ll hold the door, carry your bags, make you a meal and ask how it happened. They’ll desperately ask to sign your cast or check on how your bones are healing.
Mental health isn’t like that. Depression isn’t like that. If you had a hat on your head that said, “I suffer from depression,” would anyone come running? Would anyone say a word to you? Would they talk to you, rather than advise you? Would they comfort you, rather than criticize you?
It’s sad to say, but our society generally doesn’t work that way.
We’ve created this stigma where it’s socially acceptable to ask for help when you’re physically ill—but when your mind needs help, it’s best to bury it. Leave it hidden. Pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
What we fear the most isn’t the dark place that we’re in. What we actually fear the most is that our families won’t understand. That we’ll lose our friends, or our boss will think we aren’t capable of doing our jobs well.
We don’t fear the illness, we fear the stigma.
God made each of us in His own image. Perfect and without shame, embarrassment, weakness or fear. Those are from Satan, and they’re lies. But if we as a society continue to shy away from having real conversation about real health problems, then our society will never live for Jesus, and we’ll continue to fail our brothers and sisters who are suffering in silence.
It starts with us. It starts with having a conversation with the people you encounter, and not being weary about asking the hard questions. We were made to live in community. You don’t have to suffer from depression simply to need conversation. You may never even know that someone is suffering, or that you’re suffering, unless you ask.
Hard conversations are always worth it. Let’s end the stigma. It simply starts with talking.