Depression does not discriminate against race, gender, religious beliefs, financial status, age, and gender. As a black African woman that has experienced depression both personally and professionally, it has not been an easy topic to talk about with family, friends and acquaintances.
There are a lot of myths about depression and anxiety that cause a lot of confusion which can keep people from reaching out for help. Most people are afraid to ask for help among their peers, as they would be considered to be lazy or crazy.
Many people see mental illness as a weakness or personal failure and the following statements are usually made;
“Depression does not affect black people, its something the white privileged suffer from.”
“You need to get over it, find a hobby, take a walk.”
“Oh, stop being so sensitive!”
“Don’t take the medication, it will only make you worse.”
This makes people who are struggling with depression hold back on sharing how they feel.
Culturally we are taught to keep our feelings to ourselves. If you find yourself struggling at school, college or work, you cannot complain openly about things, as you feel conscious that you may be seen as being entitled, weak or merely just using it as an excuse for your laziness. Some depression is attributed to witchcraft or attention seeking and guilt.
We are conditioned from an early age to look out for others, help as much as we can, give as much as we can but it is not easy to say no, not today, I am tired, I need a break and just need to rest or have time to myself for fear of being seen as selfish.
We are constantly reminded that our lives are better than others who are living in impoverished countries. What have you got to be depressed about? You live in England; you have a job and a partner, think of people struggling back home or the ones in Ethiopia and Somalia who have no food or clean water.
The only time people cry openly is usually when there is a death of a loved one. Generally, crying is seen as a weakness and people tend to suffer in silence. We are supposed to be able to make it through anything. Our ancestors made it through slavery, we can make it through all the hard times, we have to keep going, and we have to be strong.
But what happens then when you have been too strong for too long? When you are tired of carrying other people’s problems and need time out? When you feel overwhelmed and need to find refuge in someone or somewhere?
While spiritual support is an important part of healing, the care of a qualified mental health professional is very important as with any other medical condition. Treatment should be sought earlier for it to be more effective.
We cannot simply ‘pray away’ depression or any form of mental illness. Why is it set apart from illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure where one can get medication to help with their symptoms and be open about it?
The stigma surrounding antidepressants causes some people to accept their diagnosis but not share and not take their medication. They will be feeling worse each day, picking up their prescription every month after telling their doctor that they are no better and just stacking the medication in the drawer.
There is very little sympathy in some communities in relation to depression as people do not know how to handle it or what to say to someone suffering from depression. It is important that we come together to address mental illnesses and break the stigma attached to it because it can affect anyone.
If you start to feel like your life isn’t worth living or you want to harm yourself, get help straight away.
Either see your GP or call NHS 111. You can also call Samaritans on 116 123 for 24-hour confidential, non-judgemental emotional support.