I saw this talk shared the other day and bookmarked it to go back and watch later. It’s a powerful talk given by Lori Prichard about her husband’s suicide. If you’ve not lived with depression, or lived close to someone dealing with it, you may have a hard time relating, but I want you to try, because I know how accurate this is. I’ve been depressed. I’ve lived with that bully inside of my own brain that told me every day how much better off people would be without me, and I managed to hide it and downplay it so that most people didn’t know anything was wrong at all, or as Lori put it, they let me get away with talking them out of any concerns.
I shouldn’t have done that, but I also didn’t want to be appear weak. After all, that was the message my brain was already giving me, people would be better off without me because I was weak and no good to them. Exposing my weakness would just make the whole thing worse for everyone.
The other interesting bit in her talk was her therapist’s opinion that we should talk about depression the way we talk about cancer, because I think a comparison like that really exposes a lot of the issues with mental health treatment in the US.
If you get a cancer diagnosis:
- No one questions it
- People sometimes step up to help you take medication, drive you to chemo, etc.
- You get instant credit for being strong every time you don’t break down
- You get sympathy and understanding when you do break down or react negatively
- Your insurance will, generally, pick up tens of thousands, if not 100’s of thousands of dollars for treatment. (Acknowledging that this is still massively incomplete for many people, and isn’t always true, though.)
If you get a mental health diagnosis:
- There’s a good chance someone will tell you it’s all in your head or that you should “man up”
- Someone will, likely, encourage you to not take medication
- When you’re strong and make it through work, or continue to fight, you probably won’t get credit, in fact, no one may even notice because they’re uncomfortable around you
- When you do have bad days, someone will accuse you of seeking attention
- Your insurance, or Employee Assistance Program likely covers 6-12 therapy sessions over an entre year, probably any prescriptions, and that’s it. And, if your depression leaves you unable to work? You probably get even less coverage.
And really, when you put those two things together, your own brain telling you that you’re weak, and that it’s really just repeating the same things we hear from society at large, and people all around us, every day, is it any wonder we have become so good at hiding it that someone like Lori would not know her husband was depressed?
That doesn’t shock me at all. People, and men in particular, can hear over and over again about the importance asking for help, but those messages about being weak have had such a head start in our lives, that it’s going to take a lot more than slogans. It’s going to take all of us treating depression like the illness it is, and the people overcoming it as the heroes they are, before we can even make a dent in those messages. I hope stories like this one can help: