I’m Ashamed of How I Used to View Mental Health

Learning lessons if just part of growing up. We have all done things in the past and behaved in ways we regret, the key is to learn from them. There is a saying I always refer to in life:

there is no such thing as a mistake, only a lesson

And I generally see life this way, one long learning curve.

But this week specifically, being #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek reminds me of how ashamed I am of how I used to view mental health issues. And I am not talking about when I was a child, I’m talking in the last decade. And Im talking more specifically depression.

I remember when I was in the first year of University 15 or so years ago. A good friend told me he had been described anti-depressants. This was one of the most fun guys I knew, but admittedly not the best student. As he described it he couldn’t drag himself out of bed in the morning to get to lectures, just didn’t see the point. I admit I thought he was just lazy.

And I admit that I have, at times in the past, been part of the “just cheer up” crowd when it comes to depression. I’ve always also been anti-medication when it comes to depression, for no apparent reason. I guess I just felt it was doctors just prescribing something when there was an easy solution.

A lot of this changed one morning when I was on annual leave from work a number of years ago. I was on leave but had a direct report who had been off sick and he called me, I answered. This was a person I had worked with for years and new pretty well. A level headed person you could rely on.

He told me he had been signed off sick with depression. I asked a few questions as I needed to report some details back to work. Then he told me he had been thinking of killing himself…..silence. What do you say when somebody drops that bombshell? I certainly didn’t know. But we talked through the conversation and I said I would support him.

With time, and support from a number of people he is back to where he was. But it changed my opinion on depression and mental health. I was  still anti-medication at that point. But he took some and said it helped massively. I started to figure out that if popping a few pills stops you ending it all, just do it.

Since then I have known other people with depression to varying degrees of extreme. The more you experience it the more you realise it is something to be taken very seriously. And even if you (like me) are not prone to it, don’t underestimate it, or think you are immune.

Mental health is a very serious thing, and we need to do more to raise awareness. If you are feeling down, talk to somebody. If you think somebody else might be, ask them. I may be ashamed of my previous outlook but I learned that lesson and I see things differently now.

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