THE BLOG
13/11/2013 12:07 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Depression Shouldn't Be the Subject of Rubbish Jokes, Especially During Movember

I'm a firm believer that when you're going through a really bad time, you pay it the solemn respect it is due, and then you have to find a way to manage it or else you may never get out of bed. Often, I do that by laughing about it, but there are some times when a joke goes a bit beyond the pale and it has a rotten egg effect.

On Tuesday night, a story came out about exercise and depression - namely that depression can be staved off in old age if you take 30 minutes of exercise a day. A story we've covered on The Huffington Post site, as a matter of fact.

This story was then discussed on Absolute Radio's drivetime show, and presenter Geoff Lloyd made a fairly rubbish joke about how if the choice was between huffing and puffing through some exercise or being depressed, he'd take the depression any day.

For my husband, who is the most mild-mannered person you'd meet, and rarely rises to irritation even when a certain wife has drunkenly left her shoes on his car, this made him explode.

My husband has battled on and off with clinical depression for 25 years. When he tried to explain it to me he said, "Imagine it's your birthday and your child has just been born. You should by all rights be happy, but you can't even touch the emotion of happiness - the black cloud that hangs over consumes you. It is the only thing you can see."

To joke about depression in the month of Movember is not a laughing matter. 12 men in the UK die a day because they commit suicide - it's not and never will be a time for complacency.

The main problem with depression is that it is both stigmatised, meaning it is harder for people to talk about, and it is misunderstood, meaning that other people think it's just 'feeling bad'. For men, it's even harder.

Think I'm being dramatic? A report in The Telegraph revealed that if a man asks about whether he has depression, he is more likely to be ignored.

Talking about why he got so upset, my husband said: "I probably wouldn't have got so peeved if I hadn't been thinking back on how depression has impacted on the lives of myself, my wife and my family (my father and brother both suffer terribly as well), I like the show, and hence was listening to it.

"And I understand the difference between a joke and being cruel, either deliberately or simply due to flippancy. However, depression is a hugely under-appreciated problem in our society, and with many retired people in today's UK sitting alone at home making the choice between buying food and heating their homes this winter, I thought: you're a pack of arseholes."

Yet for depression to be discussed so flippantly isn't unusual. I've lost count of the number of times someone has gone 'Oh, that's so depressing' (discussing the ejection of an X-Factor candidate), or people who think it's perfectly alright to call someone else mentally ill because they might be behaving in an odd way. Or when someone says, 'I think I'm depressed', talking about a break-up.

Like the word 'gay', it has become a byword for something else altogether: people feeling bad. And as anyone who's ever had depression will know, that is like looking at the Titanic's iceberg - it's only the very tip.

Depression is something that we live with pretty much every day. There are good days, when this person returns to you and all the things you love about them are present and accounted for. And there are days when they slip behind that veil, that remote place where nothing can seem to touch them. Although you want to help, the only thing you can really do is give them your love, patience and support, and hope that is enough.

You try and plan for things, but you can't. Those romantic brunches? Forget it. Socialising at a dinner party? It could be hit or miss. Somehow, you make peace with the fact that your life will not be quite like the lives of other people.

Because that's the problem with depression, it arrives when it wants and like an unwanted guest, it leaves only when it's ready.

I don't think I probably would've written this blog if my husband hadn't told me how much it upset him. Like I said, he rarely gets upset about anything.

But if he's one of the 4.7million people in Britain who have depression, and Absolute Radio have 2.2million listeners, then I'm sure he's not the only one.