Tag Archives: stigma

The Most Common Disability

From NPR’s health blog, SHOTS:

More than 1 billion people in the world are living with some sort of
disability, according to a new international survey. That’s about 15 percent of the world’s population, or nearly one of every 7 people.

The numbers come from a joint effort by the World Health Organization and the World Bank. The last time anyone tried to figure out the prevalence of disabilities was back in the 1970s, when WHO figured it was about 10 percent. The current report suggests the 15 percent estimate will grow as the world’s population ages.

Like the 1970s numbers, today’s figures are at best an approximation. Many
countries don’t collect numbers carefully, and definitions of disability differ
from place to place. The World Bank/WHO folks sought out tabulations of people who have trouble seeing, hearing, walking, remembering, taking care of
themselves or communicating. Worldwide, the most common disability in people under the age of 60 is depression, followed by hearing and visual problems.

The post goes on to say that although identification of accurate numbers is an issue, the bigger issue is providing accommodation. While great efforts have been made since accommodation has been legislated through the Americans with Disabilities Act, not much has been done to address the not so visible disabilities, such as Depression. Of course there may not be a standard accommodation for everyone. Each person has a unique situation and is affected differently by their illness, so accommodation needs to be individualized. The only way this will ever happen is that more people with Depression need to speak up about their illness and ask for accommodations if needed. Don’t suffer in silence.

There are plenty of us out there.


A Question(ing) of Faith

I’m spending my Sunday afternoon crocheting by the fireplace and listening to Christmas music. The selections have included a number hymns and songs to celebrate the season. This got me thinking about faith. I don’t think it’s all that unusual for a depressed person to question their faith. Particularly when times are most difficult. Now I know some conservative Christians might say that Depression would be the result of not having enough faith or some character flaw or unconfessed sin. That would be one of many reasons I reject conservatism and its narrow view. However, there are many occasions in the bible of doubt and despair, sometimes going hand in hand. I’m not getting into a theology lesson here, that’s not my area of interest or personal expertise.

At some of the worst times of my Depression, I felt the most alone. Separated from all others, including God. Despair can run that deep, and when there is no hope, that is when drastic measures seem the best solutions. It would be nice to have a simple answer to carry us until the despair resolves, but there are none, not even within the context of belief. Don’t get me wrong, faith helps us hang on…when we are grasping for reasons to keep going and can find no joy in life. But it’s hard not to question why. Why this particular illness? Why does it keep coming back? Why do I have to suffer so?

Of course I know plenty of people suffer from all types of ailments. But this invisible illness…takes its toll, invisibly. People don’t realize and can’t comprehend the emotional pain. I suppose that is also why we need our faith, to know that God understands our darkness and our suffering. We celebrate his son among us as part of that faith.

The holiday season always makes it a challenge to maintain a stable mood. So many messages are pummeling us and we are pulled in too many directions to assess how we actually feel. It’s always a difficult season because I have faced a number of losses during this time of year, so while I am supposed to celebrate my faith and socialize, I also grieve. Much conflict is carried around inside me which is difficult to share. I have shared much on this weblog which has been cathartic for me and hopefully helpful to someone else. I do look forward to celebrating Christmas with family and friends, and perhaps a renewal of faith for the coming year.

Relationships…or More “High School in My Head”

Everyone easily says don’t worry about what other people think, but that is so not easy for a depressed person. We just obsess over what we say or don’t say or should have said and what other people think about it. How we relate to others is a big part of our illness and a big part of how people understand or don’t understand what we are dealing with…which is why I love the Facebook category for “relationship” because my all-encompassing response is, “It’s Complicated.”

Let’s just say therapy was reeeealy rough this week talking about my intimate relationships. Not doing so hot at picking them was the conclusion. Guess because I don’t really choose, I just fall into them. That is all I want to say on that subject for now, because it’s pretty raw, and I’m still working through a lot of details, eeek.

I want to focus more on friendships, coworkers, family relationships. Absolutely loaded subject for people everywhere, not just us chronically melancholy types. Work can always be a minefield. Especially when you are the newbie. Just trying to figure out the culture of the organization, and where you fit in is a big enough challenge…don’t want to make a major gaffe by saying something inappropriate. I think it’s easy enough to avoid edgy jokes and surfing questionable websites during your introductory period, but what about speaking up in meetings, preparing reports or giving feedback? Generally I feel like when hired, they like me for my intelligence and experience, and value my opinion. So it’s hard to temper that with saying just the most “politically correct” thing, or avoiding being in any way controversial or questioning the status quo. Then, what can you say without worrying about having to process it through the “what will they think about this?” filter. By the time you do all that in your head, the moment to join the conversation has passed and the group has moved on to something else. There you sit, worrying what they think about your lack of response! Arrgh. When you do say something, it winds up being an unfiltered blurt, and either people don’t respond and just continue talking, or the room goes quiet like you just had a Tourette’s moment. Oh boy, that sucks.

 Eight hours a day you need to have your guard up, so you don’t screw up by saying something stupid and have people talking about you. Just what you need, is a little paranoia that people are talking about you and are looking to get you to go with the generalized anxiety about work! Always good to build some friendships at work if possible, so you have a sounding board to let you know when you are having a mental meltdown. Just be sure that they are people you trust and who understand and accept your illness. It would be presumptuous to just put it all out there and hope for the best. Feel people out before you give your whole self exposure.

Friendships are so very important in managing Depression. Again, it’s that support system that let’s you know what is good thinking and what is abnormal and when you need to do something about it. When you feel all alone, Depression becomes worse. Not a good place to be. Ever. Sometimes you do reach out, and people just aren’t available, being busy with other obligations. You don’t want to whine and be needy, it’s so unbecoming. That’s when it’s good to have family to lean on as well.

Oh family. Love them, but they can make you miserable at the same time. I think I count on my sister the most. She understands my illness the most, sort of walked a “mile in my moccasins” you might say, but a totally different road. There is a six-year age difference between us, so for  several years, we didn’t have much in common. But we both grew up, and we became the closest of friends. It’s a relationship I count on when things are rough and when times are good. I know she will be there for me. And I know I can say just about anything without worrying that she is going to judge me. And there are no head games. Matter of fact, we can commiserate about the head games others play, and try to figure out how to make our way in this big bad world.

This post has turned out way too long, but I think it’s so important to understand how crucial relationships are, and how depressed people struggle to initiate and maintain them. It’s never easy for us, but if we trust you, be assured that it will be a deep and lasting relationship. Unless you betray us. That’s a different post.

Thinking and Depression

Ever been told just to “think positive” or “positive thoughts lead to positive feelings?” It would be great if it worked. But, you can’t think yourself out of Diabetes or Asthma, so it’s kind of insulting to be told to “think” your way out of Depression. Not possible. No way, no how. Nice try. How’s that for negative?!?

Not that a depressed person is able to concentrate all that well. At my worst, I’m lucky I can think my way through a grocery list. And putting a whole meal together is a major accomplishment. Please don’t ask me to make any decisions, big or small. I’ll be absolutely paralyzed. As in, I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not sure.

So, it’s not just about feeling bad and sad, but so many other synapses that have gone awry too. You can’t even be the judge of how well you are thinking either. Then the stigma of mental illness inhibits you from talking to anyone about how your thinking may be coming across in interactions with others. So you tend to withdraw, keeping to yourself as a means of protection and also to avoid saying anything negative that might offend someone.

Current treatment in therapy focuses on realistic thinking instead of positive thinking. Realistic thinking isn’t sugar-coated, and is simply fact/reality based. Being realistic decreases the potential risk of failure and disappointment. Positive thinking may set unrealistic expectations or goals that remain out of reach and reinforce negative outcomes. This suits me soooo much better than trying so hard to be something I’m not. I can’t force myself to feel a certain way, I don’t think anyone is capable of that. I just don’t believe in “fake it til you make it” as a philosophy of care for Depression. Now I just have to deal with the reality that drags me down to the dark places, so I can stay on the surface, and enjoy the sun with everyone else.

STIGMA and Mental Health Problems

I found these statistics disheartening, but again, I find hope that people (even our government!) want to do something to change it! What can you do to facilitate change?

Campaign For Mental Health Recovery Campaign Sponsor: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Volunteer Advertising Agency: Grey Worldwide


Encourage, educate and inspire 18-25 year olds to step up and support friends they know are experiencing a mental health problem.


Mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) are widespread and often misunderstood. According to SAMHSA in 2005 there were an estimated 24.6 million adults aged 18 or older who experienced serious psychological distress (SPD), which is highly correlated with serious mental illness. Among 18-25 year olds, the prevalence of SPD is high (18.6 % for 18-25, vs. 11.3% for all adults 18+) yet this age group shows the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors. Additionally, those with mental health conditions in this segment have a high potential to minimize future disability and pursue recovery if social acceptance is broadened and they receive the right support and services early on.

Mental health recovery is a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful life in a community of his or her choice while striving to achieve his or her full potential.


The opportunity for recovery is more likely in a society of acceptance, and this campaign looks to men and woman 18-25 years old to serve as the mental health vanguard, motivating a societal change towards social acceptance and decreasing the negative attitudes that surround mental illness. The PSA campaign is designed to encourage this group to step up and support their friends who are living with a mental illness by demonstrating the roles they can play in their friend’s recovery.

The campaign includes television, radio, outdoor, print, and interactive elements. Viewers and listeners are encouraged to continue to support their friends who are living with a mental illness and visit the campaign website to learn more about mental health and what they can do to support their friend’s recovery.


18-25 year old friends of people living with a mental illness.


• Only about one-quarter of young adults between the ages of 18-24 believe that a person with mental illness can eventually recover.

• Only 42 percent of Americans believe that a person with mental illness can be as successful at work as others.

• Only a little more than one-half (54%) of young adults who know someone with a mental illness believe that treatment can help people with mental illnesses lead normal lives.

• Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that people with mental illnesses are not to blame for their conditions (85%), only about one in four (26%) agree that people are generally caring and sympathetic toward individuals with mental illnesses.

HealthStyles Survey 2006 (Porter Novelli)

Learn more about fighting stigma at www.nami.org

We have to support and educate our young people and eliminate stigma…they need to feel they have options other than being self-destructive!