This is the struggle for many people who are suffering from a mental illness across the country. October is Mental Health Awareness month in South Africa, and it is a issue that needs to be discussed, as the stigma surrounding mental illness still unfairly persists.
Many individuals, families and co-workers, and the broader community are affected by it, and yet, many still treat mental illness as a taboo subject.
Very few South Africans seek treatment for their mental disorders, seeing it as problem that cannot be overcome. In actuality treatment is available at the nearest clinic, hospital or healthcare provider.
I asked some people to share their thoughts on why it is important to speak about mental health and this is what they had to say.
I want to make a distinction clear before I tackle something personal. I am a bit reluctant to discuss it because I don’t to disrespect or trivialise those suffering from depression.
The only reason why I am tackling this personal experience, is because it is why I find talking about mental health to be very important.
A few years back, I was in a depressive slump. I felt hollow and like I was living my life a state of grey. I wasn’t always sad but it was like a invisible darkness that clung to my soul and no one else could see.
I remember there were weeks that I would feel like I was broken. I wondered what it would be like if I was gone. Would anyone miss me? I figured that for all intents and purposes, I was already nonexistent so it wouldn’t have been any different from how I felt.
There is another instance that I will never forget because it still give me chills thinking back to that moment.
I was lying on my bed staring at the wall, and that was all I did for about three hours. I was alone in my room. No music, no nothing… just staring at the wall feeling numb and like nothing mattered.
I feel asleep sometime, and woke up when someone needed me. After that I just tried to fill the void I felt with series or movies because it distracted my mind from feeling numb.
I came out of my depressed slump as soon as I started facing my truth – I was gay.
Now here is why I made that distinction at the start.
I suffered from a depressive slump, I was not depressed.
I live a life experiencing all the joys and sadness of life, but for people suffering from depression they have to face the battle of getting through everyday feeling unmotivated and a seemingly never-ending pit of sadness.
Depression, like many other mental illnesses, can be treated but there is such a stigma around mental illness in this country, and the world, that those who often need treatment don’t get it.
THIS NEEDS TO STOP.
A friend, directed me to her blog post titled: “When Darkness Descends…” which I highly suggest you give a read because she honestly speaks about her struggle with depression.
For now I will just quote this piece of it:
So many people need to realise that there is nothing wrong with admitting that they are suffering from depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and other mental illnesses. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
Tk: “What I cannot stand is referring to people as bipolar… Or any other mental illness because I think it contributes to the whole stigma of us being defined by our illness, you know? I’m always like okay yeah, I have bipolar, not I am bipolar. Cause I’m me first before anything else… Is that just me or do other people feel that?”
Me: “I think it is ignorance and a lack of understanding for the large part. I make that mistake sometimes. Often people suffering from a mental illness are described by the condition instead of being a person who happens to be suffering from a mental illness. It is unfair and unfortunate but it is the stigma and lack of knowledge around mental health issues.“
I am including the details for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group known as SADAG, because if you need to speak to stranger who will understand what you are going through, then they are certainly the people.
Love yourself, and please take care of yourself. If you need someone to talk to then please contact SADAG or contact me.