Mental health, what a baffling subject.

It’s a busy time of year at the moment. Everyone has gone back to school, and can’t wait for half term. Those in higher years of education are having deadline after deadline given to them and discovering that getting a job in today’s world is harder than ever before, as companies cut jobs whilst the population continues to grow. Those with families are looking to the Christmas period, dreading the shopping and cooking, getting the house ready to be up to the standard of the in-laws, whilst the younger generations are excited by the approaching party season. So what’s it like for someone with depression at this time of year?

Put bluntly, pretty horrible. Unfortunately those who are suffering from mental illnesses such as depression tend to find themselves with a rather pessimistic outlook on life. In our modern world where everything is documented, seeing others having fun over social media just makes us feel worse, that we should be doing that, that we are wasting our life, etc. So during this season of intense pressure, job and university applications, Christmas budgets and planning, shorter daylight hours and miserable days, the conditions are ideal for depression and anxiety to thrive. They love it when things aren’t bright and sunny for you. Unfortunately, it is difficult to do much to overcome this physically. Autumn and winter do some around every year, and there will always be pressure and budgets. Unsurprisingly, mental illnesses are a mental game. Although there are benefits from some physical activities, such as exercise and socializing, the only way to really tackle a mental illness is to work on your mentality.

Now for those of us who are suffering from mental illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety, if someone tells us to figure it out, or to stop moping around and feeling sorry for ourselves, we can get quite cross. It feels as though there is much more to it than just getting out of bed and turning Jeremy Kyle off. And yes, there is more to it. But for many of us, our own mentality could be one of the biggest factors. Luckily, it is possible to change how we think. (Crazy I know!) As with many physical illnesses, individual needs vary. Those with diabetes will need slightly different amounts of insulin, those with cancer different courses of chemotherapy. For mental illnesses some of us need counseling to aid us to thinking better, some of us medication, and for some both seems to provide the ultimate cure. Even if we need lots of both aspects, and have over a hundred trips to the doctor, for many of us there are other aspects which involve us ourselves to make some effort. You can’t expect a sprained ankle to heal perfectly if you don’t practice the physio you are given. The same with a speech problem, if you don’t practice outside of lessons your progress will be very slow. We can also apply this to mental health problems. If you just go to a counsellor every fortnight and take your tablet every day most likely you will get better. I am in no way saying that these methods can not or do not work. But to see real progress in a reasonable length of time, one must be prepared to put some effort in. This may come in various forms for different people, some may find meditating helpful, for many baking can be therapeutic, while others may take up running. What works for you may take some time to discover. And it may be something completely different to a friend. But hey that’s okay, we’re all unique.

On Monday this week my boyfriend was shocked to hear his lecturer (who teaches in a medical environment, he is studying paramedic science) state that those with depression sit around all day eating pizza and smoking. Of course, Christopher, being my boyfriend, was fully aware that calling this a generalization was an understatement. This is beyond anything I myself have witnessed as someone with a mental illness. If someone in that room was suffering, and according to the statistics that would be about 8 people, hearing that would be worse than all the days they have suffered put together. It is this stigma which is the problem, often even more so than the illness itself. The fact that a professional educating young people, and not just any young people but those who will be at the frontline of our medical services, at a university in Britain, is just absolutely baffling. I am still in shock three days later. Fortunately, the majority of the people in that room will be well educated and aware of mental health problems before this comment, however it is important to understand just how much small remarks such as this can impact our society and ultimately help maintain the stigma so many of us are desperately trying to remove.

So at this time of year, remember to look out for those friends who aren’t attending all the parties, check up on your family’s mental health and maybe even check if that person looking down on the bus wants a chat.

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