I had almost forgotten that today was devoted to raising attention to mental health issues, although it didn’t help that, sadly, the observance is still new and obscure. Luckily, CNN managed to get a word out about it:
Clinical depression affects about 5% of the world’s population. You probably interact with sufferers each day without realizing it. On this World Mental Health Day, dedicated this year to depression, here’s what they want you to know. Some last names have been omitted to protect individual privacy.
You can read more about these stories here. It’s not easy going public with depression: like most mental disorders, it’s heavily stigmatized, and it either isn’t taken seriously or is regarded as a sign of personal weakness on the part of the sufferer (“why don’t you just get over it?”).
While it’s certainly true that there are misdiagnoses and a lot more we need to learn, the fact is that mental illness is real. The brain can get sick and damaged just like any other organ, yet it is usually only with diseases or disorders of the brain that people become skeptical or even hostile.
That needs to change. It’s hard enough struggling with mental health problems without feeling alienated, put down, or weak. I say this not only as a sufferer of (albeit mild) mental issues, but as a humanist concerned about the well-being of others, whatever the nature of their problems.