Mental Health Stigma: People With Depression Are Weak

09/02/2017 12:19
Tadamasa Taniguchi via Getty Images

Recently I had a conversation about a common misconception, that people with mental health challenges are weak-minded.

This stigma is incorrect. In some cases, people who feel like they are not enough as they are, try to overcompensate by filling that void, with work, relationships, money, achievements etc. To those looking on the outside these people seem extraordinary, as the image of a hard worker can be confused with the image of success that is seen in common culture. But there comes a point when the void swallows up all items used to fill it. There comes a point when trying too hard, being too tough for too long, isn't enough.

The irony is that people with depression can be very good at hiding the symptoms. It's said that when people commit suicide they generally don't leave suicide notes. Families and friends may know the person is struggling but are often left shocked that the pain experienced by their loved one is so extreme to end their life. This prompts the question why didn't they talk about it. One answer is that they were very good at bottling up the pain, as not to be seen as a burden. But to hold back such pain even under pressure doesn't demonstrate a weak mind, it demonstrates the opposite. How often does common culture praise resilience and not giving up?

In trying to be strong, by holding it together, this can demonstrate a fixed mindset, of trying to push through and fix a problem, or to fill a void. It might actually be the case that the void can't be filled or fixed. When you can't change the situation, you can still change your attitude towards it.

But creating a safe environment were talking about challenges is helpful, but this is only half the battle, due to the perceived stigma that talking demonstrates weakness.

I find that life will trip you up in the good and the bad times. It would be great to be prepared for all problems before they happened, but if all problems were planned then they wouldn't be problems.

The irony of this stigma is that the actual weakness is not being of weak mind, it is being too strong in the mind. But real strength needs to come from flexibility not from being fixed and unmovable.

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.
Bruce Lee

But regardless of mindsets we need to talk more.

If there's something troubling you then get in touch with the Samaritans (UK/ROI) phone 116123. They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This number is FREE to call.