I usually detest the Sunday Independent but this article was very good http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/chorus-of-ignorance-on etc ...
Chorus of ignorance on depression
Marian Keyes's brave admission of her condition has prompted ill-informed comments, says an enraged Carol Hunt
Sunday January 10 2010
SADLY, some things never change, so I shouldn't have been surprised last week at the comments by certain Irish journalists about author Marian Keyes' admission that she is in the midst of a "crippling depression". But I was. I was not just surprised, but also spitting mad at the unbelievable ignorance and cruelty that could produce such dreadful journalism.
"I'm sorry Marian Keyes is suffering depression, but can't she do it in silence?" asked Mary Carr in the Irish Daily Mail. If I hadn't seen the headline with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
Just imagine writing that about someone with cancer, cystic fibrosis or severe diabetes. Why should "crippling depression" be any different? What is it that makes people sneer and deride a person's honest attempt to articulate a severe illness?
How dare this woman try to censor a person who speaks about an illness which has been hidden and stigmatised for so long? An illness which has proved fatal for so many people precisely because idiots like Ms Carr use their public position to downgrade its seriousness. This sort of reporting is not just irresponsible, it is dangerous and should never, ever, be tolerated.
Ms Carr continued, disparagingly: "For Marian's fragility, her ongoing battle with alcoholism, her suicide bid, her benumbed presence on the precipitate of screaming despair, her shattering depression and traumatising inferiority complex have become as much a part of her public identity as are her books."
Jesus Christ, so what if Keyes' sufferings are part of her public persona? Every biographical piece I've read about say, Spike Milligan or Winston Churchill, for example, has discussed the ways in which their depression impacted on their work and personal lives. No one could ever accuse Churchill of being a "victim", yet the Irish Mail journalist ends her piece on Keyes by snidely commenting: "It's just a pity that while she discusses her suffering in public, she keeps qualities like her strength and determination so private."
Reading this, I am once again shocked, because publicly grappling with severe depression requires enormous courage -- and not just because of the opinions of Ms Carr and her ilk. Surviving it requires a special toughness -- a bulldog spirit -- because it is one of the most severe trials in the human experience.
While I take a moment to recover from my incandescent rage, I'll fill you in on what Keyes wrote about her battle with depression: "I am very sorry but this is going to be a very short piece because I am laid low with crippling depression. Regular readers know that I've been prone to depression on and off over the years but this is in a totally different league. This is much, much worse. I know I'm leaving myself open to stinky journalists saying, 'What has she got to be depressed about, the self-indulgent whiner, when there are people about there with real troubles?'
"All I will say is that I'm aware that these are terrible times and that there are people out there who have been so ruined by the current economic climate that they've lost the roof over their heads and every day is a battle for survival, and I wish I could make their pain go away. But although I'm blessed enough to have a roof over my head, I still feel like I'm living in hell. I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't write, I can't read, I can't talk to people. The worst thing is that I feel it will never end.
"I know of people who don't believe it, but depression is an illness, but unlike, say, a broken leg, you don't know when it'll get better."
"Her [Keyes'] statement is neither brave nor particularly important," said Irish journalist Jason Walsh in the online Forth Magazine under the headline: "Depression: cultivating vulnerability."
He added: "The idea that people are ashamed to seek help for depression due to shame is a rather antiquated one. . . people aren't criticised for admitting to depression these days, they are congratulated for it."
Oh dear, my rage has now returned with a vengeance.
How ignorant can a person get? The Mental Health Awareness and Attitudes Study (by the National Office for Suicide Prevention) 2007 revealed that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed would not want people knowing about it if they themselves were experiencing mental health problems. A similar proportion do not believe that people with mental heath problems should do important jobs such as being a doctor or a nurse. Not much "congratulation" there.
Crippling depression is not one of those blue periods that we all get once in a while for whatever reason when -- as the Irish Daily Mail journalist wrote -- "we pop another pill, steel ourselves for another deathly day, and if we're lucky enough to bag a day off work, dive under the duvet for another session of sleep and intermittent sobbing".
Nice if you're feeling "down", but totally useless if you're suffering from serious depression. A little research on the topic, or even a quick
phone call to a mental health professional, may have cleared up the distinction.
Feeling devastatingly sad, angry and desolate when you lose your job, or a person close to you dies, is normal. Feeling great loss and sadness when a relationship ends is also normal -- normal and healthy.
These events can sometimes trigger severe depression, but for most people they don't -- they are, as the 14th-century monk Thomas a Kempis said, "the proper sorrows of the soul". Serious depression is different. From what I know of my own experience of "crippling" depression, any type of emotion, good, bad or indifferent, is replaced with an inability to feel anything except the pain of total despair and a desperate need to end the torture by whatever means possible. It is completely different to the sadness and loss I felt when confronted with the deaths of close family members -- neither of which precipitated a descent into clinical depression.
Depression is not rational -- which is why it's an illness -- and landing a date with George Clooney, getting the perfect job or winning the Lotto isn't going to make one iota of a difference to the awful numbing feeling of hopelessness it engenders.
As Gloria Steinem said: "Depression is when nothing matters, and sadness is when everything matters."
Author and director of Aware, Harry Barry, calls it the difference between depression with a small "d" (natural periods of feeling down, sad or low) and depression with a capital "D" (major depressive disorder).
"This difference is crucial," Dr Barry says, "because many people in the worlds of media and therapy blur this distinction. This had led to widespread uncertainty among those most affected."
In 2007, not long after the HSE report cited above, I was asked to take part in a national radio, poster and TV campaign aimed at removing the stigma around mental health. Before I agreed to do it I canvassed opinion among friends, and was told by the majority that I would be "mad" to participate. Why? Because most people believed I would be stigmatised (by the likes of Ms Carr et al) by coming out as a person who has experienced severe depression.
I was told I would find it hard to get work or be taken seriously in any profession.
I decided to do it anyway, but it wasn't an easy decision. I had quite a few sleepless nights before the campaign aired because I know that there is still a substantial number of people who believe that sufferers of mental illnesses are somehow weak or delusional -- that we all suffer from bouts of "depression", but the majority just get on with life rather than becoming a "self-indulgent whiner".
But you know what? F**k them! I feel as if we're in a battle and it's extremely important -- in some cases a matter of life and death -- that people who have suffered from depression, and survived, speak out.
Because if successful authors like Keyes are castigated for going public with their illness, just imagine how difficult it must be for people who work in a bank or a factory or on a building site to admit they are ill, and get the help the need?
Does this explain why some parents, no matter how well-meaning, are adamant that their children, victims of suicide or attempted suicide, were not suffering from a mental illness?
Mental illness is a multi-faceted and individual disease and we need to fight it with every weapon we have at our disposal.
We need an open mind where mental illness is concerned. What we certainly don't need is savage criticism of those who dare to speak of their illness and telling them that they should suffer in silence.
Which is why I'm shouting about it now.
1life 1800-24 7 100