JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Protected species

Not your best option.

Not your best option.

Are depressed people our latest protected species?

"Don't say anything to that person, they're suffering from depression, they might do something silly," we're warned, the implication being if you call the person into line for their attitude or behaviour, they'll kill themselves.

It's an ugly new form of tacit blackmail the whole nation's media has caved into. A while ago a well-known Aussie attempted suicide and all reports of their idiotic behaviour were spiked in case the character in question did the job properly.

How often do we see a celeb or sportsman caught out being stupid and they throw down the get-out-of-jail-free-card of "depression" and we're required to murmur solicitously?

Whenever I write about depression readers send me abusive emails saying I have "no idea" which is cute, seeing I've suffered from depression for many years, have a close relative with severe bi-polar disorder and have lost friends and blood to depression-related suicide.

I've been to counsellors, psychologists, analysts and psychiatrists and been prescribed four different antidepressants. I've read books on the subject, written two novels dealing with depression, meditated, given up booze and drugs, gotten fit, done charity work and improved my "internal dialogue".

I think I know my way around the subject enough to say there are plenty of depressed people who'd benefit from straight talking, rather than coddling. I know I would have.

Thanks to the efforts of groups like Beyond Blue, The Black Dog Institute, headspace, ReachOut, Movember, RU OK Day, Sane and Lifeline it's cemented in our collective psyche the worst thing you can say to a depressed person is "snap out of it" but I think, in many cases, people need to be presented with this option.

Obviously, there's a vast spectrum of depression, however, it seems we're expected to treat a lingering case of the sads with the same deference as a chemical imbalance like bi-polar disorder.

I understand it can be difficult and dangerous for a layman to try to pick the difference but trained professionals have the tools to distinguish people languishing in bad habits and those who pose a threat to themselves.

I'm pretty sure I sat in the first category far longer than I needed to because no one had the balls to paint the human condition in its primary colours for me.

That is, life isn't meant to be easy, nobody owes you anything - particularly happiness - and a huge part of living is gritting your teeth, accepting responsibility, and getting on with stuff you don't want to do.

I've never heard those words from a mental health professional and it's no doubt partly because of that tacit blackmail I mentioned; doctors don't want to be sued if patients walk out of their practice and into traffic.

Human suffering is as old as humans, yet wherever its most obvious causes like disease, warfare, poverty and inequality have been removed, depression is on the increase. It makes me wonder if the more people have, the less they value it and the more unrealistic their expectations become.

I admire positivity in others but as a life philosophy I've found the assumption of despair rarely disappoints. When it doesn't, I'm just friggin' grateful.

Suicide prevention for the chronically depressed is as admirable thing, it's just a shame so many others indulge themselves under the protection we give those in danger, crying "I've got a disease" when they're actually sulking about life being a hard slog.

With every second person claiming "I'm depressed" and high-profile wombats citing it as the reason for their idiocy, is it any wonder serious sufferers, seeing their turmoil trivialised, stay silent?

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.

58 comments

  • I worked with an individual with bipolar disorder that tried to commit suicide twice in the same year. I never saw either attempt coming. The individual was always very cheery, many times over-the-top cheery, but rarely blue around others. I find that many times, people who actually say "I'm depressed" are not the ones in serious trouble. It's the quiet ones who may not readily acknowledge the depression or talk about it out loud with anybody. My colleague was a very talented and loving individual. I hated witnessing the real pain and suffering I saw when I went to visit my colleague at the hospital. My prayers go out to individuals with serious mental illness and the people who love them and share their lives.

    Commenter
    all heart
    Date and time
    September 30, 2013, 4:12PM
    • Thanks for your understanding. I have bipolar & I don't want to live anymore. There's nothing in the psychiatrists armory I haven't tried & the illness is getting worse. It's torture.
      I'd love to find a way to end the suffering but I have young children & I hate to think what that would do to them. So all I can do is hope today is better than yesterday and keep going.

      Commenter
      Rebecca
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      October 01, 2013, 7:40AM
    • @Rebecca--I pray for a guardian angel to keep you and guide you through today and the rest of your tomorrows, while bringing you strength and hope. I ask this in the name of Christ. God bless.

      Commenter
      all heart
      Date and time
      October 01, 2013, 10:56AM
    • @ Rebecca - your experience is your own, but I've been there. Don't do it. Please. It's just a moment - however horrific the permanence feels just now. It will pass, I promise you. But it can't pass if you decide to end it. Give it time, gibe yourself some love (even if it comes from nowhere else, and you might be surprised if you look around). All the best to you - you are worthy of better times, and I PROMISE you they will come.

      Commenter
      Kiwizoo
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 07, 2013, 1:55AM
    • @Rebecca, I would never presume to know all there is to know about depression although I have suffered it for many years. I can't take medication so have to manage my condition in other ways (I'm not bipolar). I get by with therapy and by setting goals and achieving them; I need to have something to work towards every day. Obviously that approach doesn't work for everyone. But I will say this - I have been suicidal on a number of occasions, didn't do it because I have a son and didn't want him to be left with that legacy. I've been through some very dark times but ... something has always happened after I have made the decision not to die by my own hand that has made me glad I am still around. Hope that helps ... the best of luck to you.

      Commenter
      Magstar
      Date and time
      October 07, 2013, 8:48AM
  • absolutely agree, all too often i find it that the parent’s are at fault by allowing a pattern to be set, basically due to the parent’s own inability the brats just continue to throw little tantrums well into adulthood, take the little darling to a therapist who will give the behaviour a some term and the brat is set for life and the parent has an explanation(excuse) for the behaviour.
    Disclaimer, the above is not intended at making light of the true cases of depression.

    Commenter
    Victorious Painter
    Date and time
    September 30, 2013, 4:21PM
    • I don't know about that. Maybe there's a couple of examples of bad parenting causing and/or excusing bad behaviour in children. But I don't think you can generalise like that.

      Commenter
      Nervous Nellie
      Date and time
      October 06, 2013, 11:27PM
  • Well said Sam

    As someone who's also had and still manage depression with medication and therapy over a long period of time, I have to agree with you wholeheartedly. Taking personal responsibility for your own actions and well being, understanding ones own failings and triggers toward depression is the true path out of depression toward a contented life.

    Cheers.

    Commenter
    The Cartographic Division
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    September 30, 2013, 4:22PM
    • Great summation.

      Commenter
      all heart
      Date and time
      October 01, 2013, 7:44AM
    • Having experienced depression of the last decade, I think that while therapy and medication are useful tools, ultimately we have to pull ourself up by the bootstraps. Plus I've always taken the attitude that there are others worse off than me on a number of levels, and you don't have to look hard to find them. Maybe it helps that if I can't hold down paid employment, no one else in the house does, so maybe necessity becomes the mother of functionality.
      Based on my experience with a previous employer be very careful about sharing, company policy and local middle management don't always aligne....

      Commenter
      Xmas
      Date and time
      October 07, 2013, 12:30AM

More comments

Comments are now closed
Featured advertisers
Executive Style newsletter signup

Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

Sign up now