Tag Archives: Depression

Ignorance, stigma and blokism – personal reflections on the Asda fancy dress fiasco

That Asda, Tesco, Amazon and eBay should all have allowed Halloween costumes labelled as “mental” or “psychiatric” patient to be posted on their websites reinforces the views regularly expressed by mental health charities and campaign groups, that we still have a long way to go before the kind of casual discrimination and stereotyping that is now (thankfully) much more rare in relation to ethnicity and race, becomes equally unusual when dealing with mental illness. The five figure donations that have been made by Asda and Tesco to mental health charities will at least enable them to continue to fight the prejudice and misinformation that for so long have blighted the lives of those struggling with mental illness

The story touched a particular nerve with me, coming as it did very soon after somebody who I have known for many years, who I count as a friend, and for whom I have enormous professional respect, disclosed that they were receiving treatment for depression. The revelation must have taken enormous courage on the part of my friend, and it was a huge shock to me. That does not excuse the fact, though, that my response was bumbling and anodyne. I found myself trotting out a series of platitudes and aphorisms that must have left my friend wondering whether the emotional courage that it cost them to make the disclosure was really worth it

I have reflected long and hard on our conversation in the time since, and I have tried to write this blog entry on three or four previous occasions but have abandoned the attempts, having lost my way in a fog of psycho-babble, self-justification or self-pity. It seems to me that my inadequacy in providing the support that I should have done stems from two main issues : first, that I’m just not that good at talking about ‘feelings’ – my own or other people’s – and that this is particularly the case where I have no personal experience to draw on (a ‘blokish’ tendency that is simply reinforced in this case by my ignorance of what it is that somebody with a depressive illness is actually going through); and second, that I have been carrying around a set of preconceived ideas (or prejudices, to describe them more accurately) about the characteristics that define people who ‘get depressed’. My stereotypical depression sufferer was somebody displaying some or all of the following characteristics : highly strung, high maintenance, a bit ‘needy’, one of life’s victims, and who – frankly – probably just needed a bit of a kick in the seat of the pants to ‘snap out of it’ and stop ‘feeling sorry for themselves’

These prejudices have been brought out into the open and shattered when seen in the context of my friend. S/he fits none of these characteristics. The reality is – and I am sure that it is absolutely obvious to anyone reading this by now – the only person needing to snap out of it and stop feeling sorry for himself, is me

So – I have read up about depression from the perspective of healthcare professionals and those battling the illness, so that I have a better understanding of what it’s actually all about and  – more importantly – what I can do to help (actually, just ‘being there’ and ‘active listening’ feature high on the list of most helpful actions)

I’ve included links to a couple of the websites that I have found helpful here :

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/depression/caringforsomeonewithdepression_000482.htm

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/05/08/9-best-ways-to-support-someone-with-depression/

I know that my friend occasionally visits this blog. I hope that they’ll forgive my pitiful response to their disclosure. I am determined that it won’t happen again