Five reasons why I keep talking about depression

Even if you haven’t experienced a mental health problem yourself, you’ll know someone who has. And chances are they haven’t told you about it.

This Thursday, Time to Change is encouraging people to take five minutes to talk about mental health.

Here are five reasons why I keep talking about depression – and why I would urge you to do the same, whatever your mental health problem:

  • Talking makes a difference. The more I’ve talked about my experiences of depression, the more I’ve realised I’m not alone. Countless others have similar experiences and we can all learn from each other. It might seem daunting, but I have benefited enormously from taking the plunge and sharing my experiences four years ago. While medication and time off can play a vital part in coping with depression, I believe that talking therapies – as well as talking to friends, relatives, colleagues and other people who are happy to share their experiences – offer the best chance of finding a long-term way of managing and overcoming it. Counselling has been a huge help to me in the last few years.
  • Mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of. They are not your fault. But we act like they are, and we often believe they are. As a society, we need to recognise these facts, talk openly about them and remove the stigma.
  • People still get in a muddle over the difference between feeling depressed (a passing mood) and depression (a mental health problem). This confusion is betrayed by phrases like “What’s he got to be depressed about?” when people are discussing depression. We’re not talking about a lifestyle choice here, people. Would you ask me what I’ve got to be asthmatic about? Would you advise me to snap out of my hayfever? It’s easy to make these throwaway judgements and suggestions until you’ve experienced depression yourself – then you know that depression is a cruel condition that dictates your life and affects you in all kinds of hideous mental and physical ways. Attitudes are easier to change, so let’s snap out of our ignorance.
  • If people with mental health problems don’t get the help and support they need, it can make their problems worse, reduce their chances of coping and feeling better, and can be very dangerous. There are several reasons for this, and not all can be solved by talking about our problems (waiting times for therapy, for example), but we can all make it feel more socially acceptable for people to talk openly about their mental health.
  • Depression thrives on secrecy. It is a shadowy menace, like Harry Potter’s nemesis, Voldemort – an enemy so terrifying that people don’t speak his name. Do we want the bad guy to win, or are we going to rise up against him and banish him forever?

7 Comments on “Five reasons why I keep talking about depression”

  1. Jan Wolfe says:

    Well said! I remember my first brush with depression when I was 27 or so – I told my mother I was on anti-depressants and her response was “what have you got to be depressed about?” Needless to say it isn’t something I readily discuss with her!!

    However it is only now that I have reached a better place, I realise just how bad I have been over the last few years. It is sometimes hard to talk about it when you regard your depressed state as your normality. I also found I didn’t WANT to talk about it – despite knowing it is not a choice, I still felt weak, stupid, incompetent, embarassed – all things I shouldn’t feel, but still did. I watched my friends getting on with their lives feeling unable to do anything about my anxieties.

    That all said – I am happy to talk about it now! And hope that I might be able to help someone else who finds themselves in that black place.

  2. Sam Sampson says:

    Hi Paul, I’m so glad you keep talking about depression! Your articles helped me lots whilst my husband suffered over the past few years. I’m pleased to say he is now tickety boo……however, we do know it can re-occur so we try to ‘talk’ more about feelings etc – keep up the good work!

  3. Martina says:

    “Shadowy Menace”, yes, yes. I’ve always tried to be open about my own struggle with depression, currently the black dog is elsewhere, but he knows where I live. When I’m straightforward often other people “confess” their own MH issues, or those of their loved ones. Confess being the key word here.
    Why? MH problems are as common as physical health problems yet people struggle on in shame and isolation. One of my sons has psychotic depression and needs lots of support. The last thing I want him to feel is shame or that he is weak in some way.
    Talk about it people. Drag depression out from the shadows where it lurks and thrives. It’s part of the human experience, sadly, and we are all human.
    No man is an island but depression will make you feel like you are one.

  4. […] To be honest, though, I’m not sure I have much left to say about depression. I’ve been writing about it since 2011 and don’t want to keep dredging up memories that I’d rather forget. And I don’t want to bore people, or myself, by going over the same things over and over again. On the other hand, supporting people with mental health problems is something I really care about, and writing is one way I can do that. I’ve got to know many brilliant people through sharing my story – people whose friendship has enriched my life – and we all need to stick together to fight the stigma of mental illness. […]

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