There is a public service advertisement by the British government currently running on television that highlights depression and related mental health issues. Although I do not have the exact transcript, I can paraphrase it pretty accurately:
A man is interviewing for a job. They are wrapping things up, when the interviewer says: “OK, well, everything looks great. Is there anything else we should know?”
The interviewee replies: “Well, I think it’s only fair that you know I’ve a history of depression.”
“Really now? Ah, I see. Well, would a tenth-floor desk be OK? Obviously, we won’t sit you next to a window.”
Silence. The interviewer takes a sharp letter opener off his desk and hides it in his drawer. He speaks again: “It’s no problem, everyone here’s a bit mad.”
Interviewee: “Listen, I’m OK. I’ve got it under control. I just mentioned it out of fairness. I can handle it.”
Interviewer: “Right. You know, I have a nut allergy. Yeah, I’m allergic to nuts. No nuts in the building. Present company excepted.”
The narrator comes on and says, “This man’s got a problem. But he can get help at direct.gov.uk. Learn more about mental health issues.”
Although the commerical was written and performed in a clearly comedic vein, it throws the spotlight on the discomforting fact that there really are people out there with no clue about or understanding toward those affected by depression.
We have bent over backwards in our society to accommodate physically disabled people, as we should. But sympathy for those stricken by mental illness lags far behind. Society still prefers to think of those suffering from depression as either crazy or needing the bootstraps pulling up.
Depression is a disease like chronic high cholesterol or diabetes. It is as disabling and contributes to just as bad a quality of life as does a broken leg. Kidneys, lungs and livers can undergo bad health, so why is it so unsual for the brain – an organ like all the others – to do the same? Yet, instead of being seen for the valid illnesses that they are, mental health issues are too often still relegated to loony-bin territory.
What’s even worse is that sometimes the cure for the illness is stereotyped as well. I have a friend who works for London Underground (the subway system) and he reports that they won’t hire people who take anti-depressants. Rarely have I ever heard of such a discriminatory practice in the contemporary workplace. Because anti-depressants, like any drug, affect some people badly – and probably because they are wrongly seen as narcotic “happy pills” – they are tainted and seen as a hindrance to performance. As if a morbidly depressed state of mind wouldn’t affect work performance. London Underground must be full of happy-go-lucky people! But they wouldn’t bar anyone from employment for using diuretics or cholesterol-lowering medications, would they?
It’s time to start taking depression – and its cure – seriously, which is what the UK government is admirably attempting to do. There is not one person on the planet that has not been depressed at one time or another. So why is chronic depression something that is so often seen as something that is beyond our comprehension? You can help fight depression by understanding it.
Mark Edward Manning, the author of this piece, suffered from chronic depression for many years and currently takes the anti-depressant medication Cipramil.