Mental Health: Why Should I Be Afraid of Talking About My Depression?

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I spent twenty years with occasional severe depression before I told most people anything about it, anything at all. It nearly killed me. It would have been a safe bet at the time that it would kill me: I knew how to make it so and I acted. Later, I withdrew from most of my friends and family to avoid the topic, skipped decades worth of rich and wonderful experiences, largely skipped my 20s and 30s. Why?

Stigma. It’s powerful stuff, powerfully poisonous stuff. Because of stigma, you never know how someone will respond to your illness, and once you’re open about it in any way, there’s no going back. Some people understand, others don’t. Some people think they understand, seem to understand, but then they start interpreting every little thing as a symptom. You can’t feel distrust without question of paranoia, can’t get irritated or have a bad day just like everybody does without dark suspicions. To them, you are now illness – you ARE your illness and nothing more to them. Contrary to all evidence on the topic, for example, people see those people with mental illnesses as dangerous, threatening, unacceptable, WRONG. They don’t see people with problems, no, they see problems that are people. Hence all the secrecy, the hiding, the self-imposed isolation: it’s a reasonable, rational, prudent response to an unreasonable, irrational, imprudent culture. We each do what we must to survive, yes?

Yet the cost is extremely high. All that lost help and support, social contact, networking, the lost income and opportunities, the lost experiences…

After someone kills another, even a rumor of mental illness “explains” the act, right? Well, no, the true answer in exactly the opposite, yet in mainstream culture, people “know” countless untrue ideas with pride and confidence. Why should stigma be an exception? When ignorance, fear, and hatred combine in such as way, the result is toxic indeed: it causes much if not most of the suffering we attribute to mental illnesses. Stigma is far more dangerous, damaging, and costly than are the people it targets. Yet we continue to focus entirely on those with the illnesses, as if they own the countless acts, attitudes, and ignorance of the millions of people who don’t suffer these illness, but worsen them every day, openly, proudly.

On all the countless occasions when people hide instead of seeking help and support, stigma causes them deep harm. For tens of thousands of Americans every year, stigma is lethal. A large majority of the deaths involving guns in America are suicides, not homicides. We lose more Americans to suicide in a week than to terrorism in a decade, yet it all goes ignored, and thus tacitly accepted. By our lack of willingness to even discuss this relentless killer, Americans might as well approve of it. The results are the same. We give it free rein and focus our energy on matters we care about. That behavior and attitude is completely unacceptable. It’s dangerously irresponsible. It will not stand.

So some of talk about it, openly and often. We will not let this topic linger in toxic seclusion anymore. We will push it back the way you push back dark secrets and hidden evils: by openly taking a stand. We will make the topic commonplace, unavoidable. We will push everyone to make their position clear, and thus make it easier for those in need to find sympathetic ears. We will make it so hard to avoid education that the only remaining ignorance will be clearly volitional, desired, planned. We will not rest until the only remaining stigma will be towards such ignorance and hatred. No more pretending we’re neutral or that the struggle isn’t there: all must take a side. Neutral in this case amounts to complicity with fear, ignorance, and hatred: that will not stand. It will not!

I offer this example, the post that triggered my own:

Mental Health: Why Should I Be Afraid Of Talking About My Depression?

No more shame and silence! The more of us stand up and take on the risks involved, the less need for any of us to hide at all. We needn’t hope to avoid defeat: no! We can seek victory, and we can get there, too, we can do it with numbers, persistence and unity. We can, and we will. Personally, I insist that it will be so.

How about you? What side do YOU choose?


  1. Beautifully said. I now know I did the right thing. The masses of people who “know someone” who died from an overdose, suffers from active addiction, or is in “recovery”…. stigma is a crappy word; but its a word nonetheless. I spoke to someone a few nights ago who said, “what is truth”? his reply “it’s a pure thought”.
    You did “it” the right way. You exposed your “weakness”, your “kryptonite” while having an actual “paying job”… I did it with a “pure thought’… sometimes being truthful will cause more harm financially; I did truthfully, with the best of intentions. It may well continue to preclude from any actual paying job or organization. I have faith; in God and myself. Everyday, I’m grateful I’m not dead or in jail. I know I’m blessed because I have children that are healthy, intelligent, and beautiful to boot. I’m thankful that I have an opportunity to do better, be better, the opportunity to learn and grow. Greg, I am not going to ‘pack up my toys and go home’… that wound indicate defeat. Recovery is an every day process. Like I’ve told you before, there is no magic pill (suboxone and methadone are drugs Greg, and while short term use may be great, I can tell you with certainty they are not a “long-term” solution; this I know.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. It does. Thank you. Color me “happy”. Me too…. the only difference between you and me, is that you have the luxury of getting paid. Well, I guess it’s not a luxury… but it certainly is a blessing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve thrown it away now and again – temper, remember? Yes, it’s a wonderful thing, and I avoid commenting publically on anything where I work. Hospital follows me on Twitter​! A surprising number of coworkers follow my blog. Pays to be careful​!


  2. Beautifully said. I now know I did the right thing. The masses of people who “know someone” who died from an overdose, suffers from active addiction, or is in “recovery”…. stigma is a crappy word; but its a word nonetheless. I spoke to someone a few nights ago who said, “what is truth”? his reply “it’s a pure thought”.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If they can notice it, it’s bad. I don’t show much, basically nothing until things are rather far along.Typically I surprise people. I do have a bit of a temper when it comes to patient care: I’m hard at times on those who don’t take their duties seriously. At times that anger has been misinterpreted: basically any strong emotion has some​​e psych label that someone could​ slap on it.I don’t prove things to people as much as I find people who are reasonable about it. I’ve left jobs over this issue.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Finding the right fit; trying to fit a square peg into a round hole never, ever works. I don’t know about you; but I’m willing to guess not an organization in the continental US would hire me based on my disclosure(s). But that’s ok. I have faith that it will all work out just as it should.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Haha… you are exactly right. I would be lying if I told you that I keep waiting for FL BON to call me. Oh, maybe they haven’t called because they found no validity in their “interrogation” of me and my practice. ? idk. I keep checking the website. Lol…. brb.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I know the cost of opening up to others. When I opened up to my husband, he harassed me until I left him. He actually tried use my mental illness against me in court. When I opened up to co-workers, they tattled on me. I ended up quitting over the harassment I got from my boss. The stigma is real, and there are true costs to opening up to others. It’s hard to know who you can open up to, and who you can’t.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been there. It’s a real risk, and people do well to take care with such inflammatory information. I have tested the waters many times and have an established base of family and friends in the know, as well as a workplace safer than most – after burning through a few managers who showed more stigma than character. Step by step, I’ve built this up, and gradually built up my openness. I don’t discuss it at work except with a select few, don’t discuss it with patients except in abstract terms, but I’m completely open on social media and am looking at public speaking as well. It’s a risk for me but also a benefit for others, and there is a personal benefit to not holding toxic secrets. They have less power in the open, in some ways. It’s not an easy topic! We each need to choose for ourselves, and I counsel all to take care with it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I applaud your efforts. I have lived it. I continue to fight – Depression does not define anyone. It is an additional challenge yes. It does not say a person in incapable or less worthy – yet you are so right that stigma is attached to depression like butter sticks to bread. My thoughts – bring out of the dark this subject. People label it – perhaps because they have not experienced it, thus fear it. People label period which in unfortunate Single is labeled, divorced is labeled – cancer is labeled, yet so is un-employed or overweight. Why must we label and categorize? A person is valuable – period! Each person has their own special qualities and gifts and yes challenges. Everyone has them. Instead of this world focusing on the issue – let’s focus on the solutions – the first step is awareness, the second is communication and then collaboration!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. I think the more this topic comes out of hiding, the more obvious it becomes just how many of us there are, once people realize there are friends and family and neighbors involved, the more commonplace such issues become, the less power stigma will have. As it is, I often meet people who feel far rarer, far more unusual, and thus far more damaged and lessened somehow, then their real situation merits. They find relief in knowing the real picture. People need help and support, all people do, of course, but those dealing with stigma seek less than they need, get less than they need. It’s a major contributor to the suffering most people assume derives solely from the illnesses. If we dispel stigma, we will also dispel much and perhaps most of the suffering these illnesses create. The great things about it? Just as anyone can add to stigma. anyone can also lessen it. Anyone!

      Liked by 1 person

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