The hidden cost of depression is far worse than most people realise. Due to the stigma attached to mental health issues, and despite the drive to encourage people to open up, many people still hide their depression. The stigma due to many seeing mental health issues as weakness still has a strong influence. Cases of depression remain underreported.
Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression
A recent example is the tennis player, Naomi Osaka who held on for as long as she could until she reached breaking point. She withdrew from the tennis French Open and the response from the organisers of the tournament was ignorant and unsympathetic. Refreshingly, she was bold in challenging the existing social norms and procedures – probably at great cost to her physical and mental health.
There is so much pressure to achieve and be strong in the face of all sorts of pressure and depression is perceived as a flighty, flaky response to very real mental health issues.
The reality of depression
If the true picture came out, I think everyone would be astonished at the widespread nature of depression, and anxiety for that matter. Some individuals may have depression without even realising it because their deflated nature has become normalised and they have become accustomed and desensitized to its impact. It is common knowledge that one in four of us suffer from a mental health disorder currently.
Being a counsellor affords you a far more realistic picture of the cost of depression and of what is actually going on. Time and time again, I see people putting on a brave face and acting as if their lives are fantastic, when I know for a fact that they are struggling. Their social media feeds are jammed with pictures of them looking lively with big grins on their faces. They are the same people that I had seen earlier that day telling me how they cannot cope with life.
What does this say about Society? We all want to pretend that we have things under control but many of us don’t.
The fact that we keep our mental health issues hidden means that many people cope alone, despite the fact that even their best friend may be going through a similar experience… No one talks about it.
Many people are just barely coping
The Covid pandemic has massively increased cases of depression and anxiety. Many people admit that they had no issues prior to Covid emerging but have now become depressed and have needed antidepressants to get through. Was partly exacerbated by our evolutionary wiring. We are designed to protect ourselves from threat but there are many ‘threats’ that we cannot escape
- Debt/ financial worries
- Traffic Jams
- Relationship issues
- Corrupt politicians and things that are out of our control
- Stiff competition in the workplace and pressure to achieve (perfectionism is on the rise)
- Pressure to fit in and not appear to be a loser
- Social media pressure – look perfect or else feel you’re not good enough
- Lack of traditional family support and community support
There are so many threats in our society. They are not quite the same as the lions/predators that prowled eons ago but they activate our fight-flight-freeze response in exactly the same way. Feeling constantly under threat is exhausting for the body and can lead to increased depression and anxiety. It’s a never-ending cycle.
The hidden cost of depression is evident if you take the time to look
First of all, think about yourself and those closest to you. I am pretty sure that you can think of more than one or two people that have been touched by depression or mental illness.
In 2019/20 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health. Stress, depression or anxiety is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.
Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
All forms of depressive disorder experience some of the following symptoms:
- (a) reduced concentration and attention;
- (b) reduced self-esteem and self-confidence;
- (c) ideas of guilt and unworthiness (even in a mild type of episode);
- (d) bleak and pessimistic views of the future;
- (e) ideas or acts of self-harm or suicide;
- (f) disturbed sleep
- (g) diminished appetite.
Self-actualisation and the cost of depression
It is impossible to become your best possible self if you are depressed. When you are severely depressed you cannot function correctly. Motivation disappears and attending to personal hygiene can even become mature and almost impossible to achieve. Many people with depression withdraw from others and refrain from socialising.
They also lose all interest in activities and things that used to bring them joy. Their thoughts become distorted and they become highly self-critical and feel frequently unworthy.
Depression affects every area of life:
It affects your work life because you are unable to concentrate and you lack motivation.
It affects personal relationships because you do not interact in the same way and you don’t really enjoy things anymore that you used to with your partner/friends.
Your ability to achieve your true potential because self-doubt rains when you are depressed and you are frequently in survival mode – just trying to get through the days.
If you are a parent it will affect your ability to be an effective parent.
Depression also affects self-esteem and self-confidence.
There isn’t an area of a life that escapes the impact of depression and on top of that, there is the added strain of trying to appear fine in front of everyone else. It’s a lonely mental health disorder to experience and live with.
Talking openly about depression
We can promote as many mental health events and create mental health campaigns but until we show others that reducing the stigma will only happen if we all start admitting to our own depressive episodes.
As a therapist it is even more unacceptable to admit to suffering from depression. I have experienced depression since I was very young and that was part of reason why I became a cognitive behavioural therapist. I wanted to understand and what depression was all about and find ways to alleviate its symptoms.
My research has as revealed many interesting techniques and strategies, and my studies in cognitive behavioural therapy have definitely helped me me to manage depression far more effectively. Therapists are still people though and we are all acceptable to challenges that life brings us.
In fact having personally experience depression and anxiety helps me be far more empathetic towards my clients. Depression is far more widespread than we all all believe and if only we all turned up to this fact, we could reduce the stigma in a relatively quick time.
Don’t ever feel ashamed to admit if you have had or that you are currently suffering from depression. Depression in my mind is as common as low self-esteem, perfectionism (which is rife) self-doubt. It doesn’t just happen to weak and vulnerable people. In fact it happens to to amazing intelligent successful people and when we we integrate the symptoms and experiences of depression it’s normal life with everybody talks about it naturally, many people will no longer have to suffer alone.