The other day I was hurtling along the narrow lanes of Jersey, rushing to get Oldest to school, when suddenly Bonnie Tyler was pumping out of the radio – ‘Holding Out For A Hero’. Suddenly, I was transported back to my childhood friend’s living-room. I was 5 years old, we were singing along badly, not really understanding the meaning behind the words. All I know is that my friend made me play the man, again and again. This involved me having to pretend to flex my muscles as Bonnie Tyler warbled in the background. We clearly thought that muscles were the main prerequisite of a hero.
Now that I am older (and hopefully wiser) I still love this song. I still have to sing along at the top of my voice. However, I am now taking the lyrics with a pinch of salt when I am singing it,
instead I am thinking about who is a hero in my life, male or female.
I read a report that mental illness amongst children is on the increase in Jersey. In fact, they likened it being close to an epidemic. However, Jersey isn’t alone in this. In the UK, a quarter of a million children are receiving help from the NHS for problems such as anxiety and depression. I can believe this. We are reaching a global crisis when it comes to our mental health. A crisis that isn’t just limited to our children.
I have a friend, who on the surface seemingly has it all. However, she is facing a daily battle to keep (what she describes as the black veil) depression at bay. Very few people know this about her. She is ashamed that she feels this way. Mostly she functions just fine but every now and again she describes that black veil as suddenly sweeping over, choking and suffocating her. When she is like that she just wants to hide away. She struggles to complete the most basic of functions, yet she has to because she works. She is too afraid to tell her employers. Too scared to tell them how her brain feels fuzzy; how she struggles to concentrate. Too afraid to share what life is like from beneath the veil of depression. This isn’t surprising as a recent study by Business in the Community found that “depression is still shrouded in a culture of silence and stigma in UK workplaces”*
I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be in emotional distress, yet afraid to ask for help. There is a stigma when it comes to mental health: that it only affects the weak, that it is something we should be able to pull ourselves out off, that it’s not a real illness. It is a real illness though and by stigmatising it we are just driving the people who suffer from depression into the shadows. It is no wonder we see a global crisis happening, it’s no wonder so many children are suffering. The only way we can cure depression is to care about it. If depression is left untreated, then it just gets worse. It’s like a broken limb, it can’t be healed without treatment.
What is depression?
Depression is more than simply being unhappy. Depression can be a response to what is going on in that person’s world. Perhaps they feel socially isolated, perhaps they have no money, lost their job. The list is endless. All I do know is that curing depression is not as simple as taking a pill. We need to talk. Taking a pill and shutting up won’t help. Taking a pill and encouraging the person to talk will help. I wonder if that is what is at the root of our depression epidemic, the fact that we don’t really talk nowadays. Have we become too reliant on social media? Have we lost the art of talking in person? Have we lost that sense of community? Loneliness can be a real problem, it is thought that social media has helped make our society smaller but has it really? Or is the social media just a plaster? Hides the wound but at some point that plaster has to come off. Also, if we believe everything we see on social media, on Instagram, then we could be forgiven for feeling like we have failed because we don’t have that Instaperfect life. However, no-one does, social media often only shows a very stylised snapshot of a day. One second snap out of the 86,400 seconds you get in a day.
Nobody has the perfect life.
Today many of us don’t know our neighbours, lots of us do our weekly shop online. Nowadays, you can live without seeing another soul. We now live in a society where human connections are often sacrificed. We don’t have time, we are all busy rushing around. However, when I was a child we knew our neighbours and we all looked out for each other. As a kid we played out on the streets, we went exploring in the local woods. Perhaps, that is part of the reason that many of us no longer have a real sense of community. Nowadays children aren’t as free, we are more fearful in society. We know each other less and less. Perhaps it’s time we started getting to know each other better. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors. Who knows how a friendly smile might change someone’s day, who knows if that person is hiding beneath a black veil. We can’t go back to the past and what community used to be like but we can create a new, kind, modern society. One where we look out for each other; one where we communicate. We need to do it. Depression won’t just go away, it is very complex and I am not qualified to speak on it or offer solutions. You can have a whole supportive network and still feel totally alone. However, We need to be someone’s hero today. A hero isn’t someone who flexes their biceps, they aren’t strong physically, a hero is someone who cares and listens. A hero is someone who supports. A hero is also those people battling depression; every day they have to be strong emotionally.
We are all heroes, male or female, it’s just that some of us hide it under a veil.
*Source: The Guardian*