Buried deep in the entrails of today’s Irish Times (Health Supplement p.6) is a staggering headline:
"Three out of four say depression is very disruptive"
I said to myself : ‘What? That’s ridiculous. Only three out of four? 25 out of a 100 people think depression isn’t very disruptive? What do they think it is? Where do they live? What sort of a world do that quarter live in? Is it that they simply don’t think at all about depression, and thereby don’t know what to think? Surely they can’t possibly think depression is less than very disruptive?’
As far as I’m concerned, depression almost kills off reasonable life,
reduces it in quality so much that it is not only horrible for the depressed person, but also awful for anyone offering day to day support. My personal experience of depression is that it has depleted my life so much that, while I was depressed, I felt barely alive. It totally transformed my life.
After I recovered from a bout of depression, I felt restored to myself and extraordinarily better. The impact of depession on my everyday life was huge.
We won’t get far in the discussion about mental health if we can’t all at least agree that depression is a very serious matter. I’d love to know people who think depression is just mildly disruptive: they are either saints or weird. I’d love them whatever they think.
I guess I am so experienced in the ways of depression
that I have difficulty imagining what some people think about it. To me, it is a self-evident truth that depression is a very serious condition. But there was a time when I hadn’t a clue about it. I couldn’t imagine it. I thought people could simply shrug it off, if they really wanted to. I remember a time when I didn’t know feelings of awfulness could descend so low. I bobbed along, convinced that feeling down and aggitated was part of life’s normal up and down. I shrugged off periodic phases of low energy and considered my unhappiness to be my lot. (I was brought up an Irish Limerick Roman Catholic)
Actually I never descended fully into the depths of misery until I was in my 40s. So I had plenty of years of ignorance.
All of which adds up to the realisation that, while I’ve been talking to myself about the 25% of unfortunates who don’t realise the truth about depression, I’ve been realising how long I was one of those people.
People who are bright and sunny in disposition all the time are fortunate.
There are such people. I’ve met a handful. Maybe they’ll never need an in-depth understanding of depression, but they’ll be more in touch with reality if they know that depression is very very disruptive - because everyone has to live in a world in which there are depressed people getting on with life as best they can.
On balance, I think we need a better understanding of mental health (not just in Ireland). The Mind Yourself survey is helpful. I intend to read the whole report.
Meanwhile, I’d like to thank Sylvia Thompson from The Irish Times for writing a fine short summary of findings, with comments from Prof. Patricia Casey, professor of psychiatry at UCD & consultant psychiatrist at Mater Hospital, Dublin. Also, Brian Howard, chief executive of Mental Health Ireland, commented on the report.
I’d like to have seen some comments from people who have direct personal experience of depression or schizophrenia. The voice of the ’sufferer’ would be well worth hearing. Journalists so often go for the ‘professional expert’ voice rather than the voice of the insider. Don’t you think?