So I’ve been sitting on this post for over a week.
To whom it may concern,
My name is Emma, and I am 24 years old. You probably don’t know me, so I will give you a bit of background. I am a born and bred Melbournian. I have the best family in the world, and my friends are the most wonderful you could find. I love to travel, I cook a mean caramel slice, and have a deep love for television shows like The West Wing and Parks and Recreation. I spend too much money on clothes and should take better care of my garden. I majored in Politics and undertook my Honours year at Monash University, I studied for a semester in France, worked at the Houses of Parliament in London, and am living the dream at my current job with Young and Well CRC. I’m doing pretty awesome.
I also have depression and anxiety, and have done for almost six years.
Life should be wonderful. I know this. It shouldn’t be such a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. And I know this too. But the most important thing I know is that I have an illness that can make me feel hopeless, sad and defeated even in the most joyful of situations.
Last week, some statistics were released. The beyondblue Depression Monitor survey, a survey that gathers responses from about 3,000 people from around the country, delivered some interesting results. This is a letter to those respondents who believe those with severe depression should “pull themselves together,” to the one-in-ten who believe these individuals are “weak-willed,” and the one-in-four who believe those who deal with this illness are a “danger to others”.
So, Mr/Ms Survey Respondent. You think I choose to be unwell? Really? I brought this on myself? Really?
Newsflash! Being unhappy is exhausting. If I could think my way out of this illness, I would have years ago.
My heart broke a little when I read that one-third of the respondents to this survey would not be willing to have somebody with depression marry into their family. The idea that I may not be accepted because of an illness I actively and successfully manage terrifies me.
To see this kind of prejudice in a series of brutal statistics, right there in black and white, is awful. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed of my mental illness, never have been and I hope I never will be. But you know what, seeing those figures made me question the support and love so unwaveringly shown by my family and friends. Thoughts were just popping in and out and around along the lines of “if so many people in the survey feel this way, surely some people I know do as well.”
But don’t worry, Mr/Ms Survey Respondent, I snapped out of it. Nup. Nicht. Non. No. Not my team. I’m fortunate enough to have never been in a position where I have been judged because of my mental illness. I can confidently say that I have not had to endure that harsh injustice in my work or personal life. A lot of the time, as I have learnt more about depression and anxiety effect me, my team have learnt along side me. I am so, so blessed.
Until these findings were published last week, I truly didn’t realise how fortunate I really am. Stigma, terrible as it is, continues to run rampant and it is just not good enough. I am a firm believer that these views are completely unfair. It demonstrates that we as individuals in the mental health sector are not providing the wider community with the right information, just as much as it displays that old attitudes take a monumental effort to change. We can both do better.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; mental health is ready to be understood. It has been ready for some time now.
And if you, lovely reader, take anything from this piece, may it be this: this illness is not a choice.