14 Sep A Message to the Non-Believers: Mental Illness is Real
Last week, professional kickboxer Andrew Tate boldly proclaimed, via Twitter, that depression isn’t a real thing.
Among his comments were gems such as, “You will always be depressed if your life is depressing. Change it.” and “Most ‘depressed’ people are unhappy with their lives, too lazy to change it. That simple.”
He went on to suggest that allegedly depressed people claim to have a “disease” to absolve themselves of any responsibility. There was more, but I think you get the point.
Most of the Internet was outraged. The statistics speak for themselves. According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Almost 800,000 people die by suicide every year (that’s one person every 40 seconds). And of those who take their own lives, 50% have been diagnosed with major depression. Following Andrew Tate’s logic, people who resort to suicide are simply too lazy to take responsibility to change their lives.
It seems absurd, that in 2017, there are still people who don’t acknowledge mental illness as a legitimate disease, including many of Tate’s followers. And maybe he’s been kicked in the head one too many times (and, incidentally, there’s evidence that concussions can lead to depression), but there are still plenty of non-believers whose cerebrums are fully intact.
Last spring, I wrote about my week-long stay in a hospital psychiatric ward. The great majority of comments were kind and supportive, but there were a few outliers in the bunch, including one particularly brutal tirade from a woman who claimed that her husband and child had cancer and what the fuck did I have to complain about. She suggested that I get over myself and “get some perspective” because people have real problems.
Her comment was especially harsh, but I’ve heard enough opinions and advice about my own struggle to suggest that there remains widespread disbelief and misunderstanding about mental illness, even among my peers.
Have you heard the term gaslighting? It’s been coined as a form of emotional abuse in which the abuser tries to convince the victim that her experience isn’t true (even when there’s incontestable evidence). An example would be when a man has emails, texts and photos that prove his wife is having an affair. The wife gaslights her husband by repeatedly denying, lying, turning the tables, diverting and projecting – resulting in the husband doubting his reality, feeling confused, and maybe even “crazy”. A less extreme illustration is when your child falls down and scrapes her knee, and you tell her she’s fine and that she should stop crying. In both examples, the victim’s experience is invalidated and denied.
If you struggle with your mental health, I’m sure you’ve had multiple gaslighting experiences; every time someone tells you that you have nothing to worry about when your anxiety is out of control; when you’re depressed and advised to think positively, consider people who have it so much worse than you, look at the wonderful things you have in your life, get out of bed and do something fun, cheer up, look at the bright side, you have a wonderful family, you’re thin, you’re beautiful and this should make you happy.
If we could flip a switch and make it go away, wouldn’t we do just that? Imagine the lunacy of telling someone with cancer that they don’t need chemo because positive thinking will cure them!
All of these comments, as well-intended as they may be, deny the reality of those of us who struggle and perpetuate the myth that mental illness isn’t real. You don’t have to try to make it go away. But acknowledging that our experience is authentic is validating and liberating – and brings us one step closer to giving the stigma one final knock-out kick.
And to you Andrew Tate – everyone knows professional kickboxing is fixed. Asshole.