Depression doesn’t discriminate

by Glen Chisholm

Depression doesn’t discriminate it can affect anyone of any race, age, class or background. In fact 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem over the course of a year. Suicide is the most common cause of death in men under 35 years old but Depression is more common in women. For too long people have been scared to come forward and speak up but charity campaigns such as The Blurt  Foundation and Time to Change [1] have raised awareness with some inspirational figures stepping forward as ‘role models’. But the stigma is still pervasive and there are still those who are unwilling or unable to understand what others are facing. Some still see depression as a weakness that somehow you are soft or its some moral failing to be a sufferer.

black_men_depression1People who knew me have often told me that I always seemed to have such a positive attitude even in the face of adversity. But for years this persona was a facade masking my true feelings and hiding the truth not just from others but myself as well. In a way I liken it to the image of a swan- calm and peaceful on the surface but underneath frantically paddling away trying to stay afloat.
Myself and my family had been though a series of personal tragic and traumatic events. My wife had lost one of our unborn twins and the surviving twin was delivered early to save both my son and wife. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was surrounded by people who loved him but we watched on as my dad fought,struggled and died a painful death in front of us. This had a profound effect on me. But also as the eldest son I felt that I had to be the strong one and this just added to me putting on a front.

With all that was happening I started to feel there was a dark cloud hanging over me. I called it an impending feeling of doom syndrome. I was now at a point where externally people thought I was ok, but I could not relax because in my mind it was only temporary until the next disaster came up. I tried to keep the happy go lucky facade up but it become harder and harder to do this.

Emptiness-depression-33252809-400-589

I was scared to get help but it all got to much for me. I just could not face going on like that my mind was all over the place. It felt like I had too many thoughts I was obsessive about things I could not control. I knew I could not carry on like this and I finally got help saw my GP was diagnosed with depression and started to put my life back together.
I was very open about my condition. I found talking about it helped and I no longer wanted to feel ashamed or let it control me. I wanted control back over my life. But some people found it difficult to deal with my condition. Some seemed like they would rather not speak to me for fear of saying the wrong thing. I heard the sarcastic comments, they did not seem to realise I was the same person.

Growing up mixed race in 70’s and 80’s Briton I had faced prejudice on many occasions. A lot of prejudice is based on fear and ignorance. We fear what we do not understand and because of our ignorance of the facts some people fill the blanks of their knowledge with stereotypes that reinforce their blinked view. Just as with our colour we need to show that one thing does not define us. Being mixed race is not the sum of who I am just as my condition does not define me its a part of who I am, but not who I am.

[1] Mental health problems are common – but nearly nine out of ten people who experience them say they face stigma and discrimination as a result. This can be even worse than the symptoms themselves. Time to Change is England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.

Glen Chisholm is a UK based town Councilor of mixed Jamaican and English descent. He is deputy portfolio holder for communities on his local council also sitting on the Police and Crime Panel and also as Equality and Diversity advisor for a local charity. Glen has previously blogged for a mental health charity trying to raise awareness of the stigma around mental health. Twitter @glenchisholm

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