Why the shame?

Last weekend, a reporter’s niece admitted to him that 15 years ago, she tried to take her life on two occasions, both times being rushed to the hospital after her parents found her on the floor.

And he asked me, “Why do you think people are so ashamed to talk about it?”

After all, it took his own family member 15 years to tell him.

I told him I think people are so ashamed because others treat depression like a weakness, instead of a disease like it really is. 

I will always remember what Dave Opalewski, suicide prevention professor at Central Michigan University, said during a seminar at Oxford Middle School: “Depression is a medical condition; it's not a character flaw … it's okay to ask for help. You're not a bother. You're a prize possession. You're a gift to this community.”

I think this is something those facing depression need to remember — and it’s especially important for people to remember who wrongly judge those experiencing depression as “weak.” 

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the exact cause of depression is unknown. Many researches believe it is caused by chemical changes in the brain, which may be inherited or triggered by certain stressful events. Most likely, it’s a combination of both. True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. 

My question isn’t the same as my co-worker's: “Why are people ashamed?” Instead, my question is: “Why are people so cruel?” Why do people make fun of others, calling them derogatory names? When people call those with a mental illness “retard,” “crazy,” “emo,” “loony,” “stupid,” “wimpy,” etc. my skin crawls. They don’t understand just how serious it is — and how calling them names does not help at all.

Maybe this is why, according to statistics, 75 percent of people with depression don't seek treatment. According to suicidal.com, “How family members, society as a whole, and how we ourselves perceive and react to depression can literally paralyze any efforts a person might make toward getting help.”

This website was made by someone who, herself, had considered suicide. She wrote that someone actually said to her, “Oh, boo, hoo, she's gonna go kill herself ! What a manipulator ! She uses that to get whatever she wants.”

Hmm...why anyone would be ashamed to talk about depression after being treated like that??

She wrote, “The biochemistry of depression makes you feel and believe that this depression is your fault, that you will never get better and that you must die. The depression itself is causing the very shame that prevents you from reaching for help … Depression is truly an innocent, shameless, blameless physical disorder that makes you believe that something is wrong with YOU instead of your biochemistry. It is not a mystery anymore. It isn't your fault and you have a physical disorder, imbalance or deficiency. The more you know and learn about your own biochemistry, the more often you will be able to see yourself and your illness as separate from yourself a split second at a time.”

People with cancer, diabetes, etc. are not treated this way because the disease is physical. Just a CT Scan can prove its exisence. But depression is the same as cancer — they are both something a person cannot control, they are both something that can be treated and they are both a disease. 

Throughout the years, America has fought for gay rights, women’s rights, African American civil rights, etc. Now I think the time has come for us to fight for the rights of those diagnosed with a mental disorder to be treated equally because right now, they are not, which only makes suicide that much more likely.

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