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Depression Confessions

Kevin Breel: Confessions of a Depressed Comic

Breel, the young brother in the video above says a ton of significant things – he’s worth listening to. For instance, he says:

…what you really fear the most, isn’t the suffering inside of you, it’s the stigma inside of others. It’s the shame, it’s the embarrassment, it’s the disapproving look on a friend’s face; it’s the whispers in the hallway that you’re weak, it’s the comments that you’re crazy – that’s what keeps you from getting help, that’s what makes you hold it in and hide it.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast, but if you tell people you’re depressed everyone runs the other way – that’s the stigma. We are so accepting of any part of our body breaking down other than our brains and that’s ignorance….

In thinking about depression, I long for the day when the stigma is no more; for the day when people don’t look at others strange because they voice that they suffer from it; the day when it is as normal to talk about your mental illness as it is to talk about your physical illness. This longing means that we have work to do. It will not just happen and it will not happen overnight. But I believe that it can indeed happen.

By no means am I an expert, neither am I qualified to give medical or professional advice; but some of the things I know to be important regarding the Clinically Depressed are:

1. Dismissing is Dangerous: We should never dismiss a person who bravely admits that they struggle with this illness. They more than likely already feel isolated and alone – your reaction matters.

2. It’s Not That Simple: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is complex and multidimensional. Everyone who suffers from it will have a different experience and a different path toward wholeness.

3. Illness is Actual: Make no mistake about it, MDD is an illness. It doesn’t care how much faith you have or don’t have. And sometimes it takes a person a long time to get well, even after they are able to seek out the help that they need. Patience is required. We don’t try to make physically ill people heal immediately, the same care should be taken with the mentally ill person.

4. Wellness is a Process: Prayer, psychotherapy, self care strategies, supportive, patient friends, and if necessary, medication, are a powerful combination on the journey through depression. Depression is sometimes situational and other times biological and chemical.

5. Needs Can Be Discovered: If you don’t know how you can help or what a person needs, love and respect them enough to ask them.

6. Suicidal Thoughts Are Powerful & also Preventable: When someone tells you that they desire or plan to end their life, don’t ignore them. Take their pain seriously. Abandoning them during their time of need is not the most helpful approach. If you can hear the cry for help, don’t ignore it.

Resources: Suicide Hotline and Suicide Prevention and another, Crisis Chat.
Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression – Dr. Monica Coleman

7. Deadly Combinations Exist: Silence and isolation can be deadly – literally. Courage to speak up and reach out for help is life giving and when someone reaches out to you, be supportive. If there was ever a time to demonstrate true friendship, that time is now.

These are just a few observations and insights – brief and not at all exhaustive.

Do you know someone who suffers from depression? Are you one who suffers from depression? Will you help or get helped?

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It’s Not About the Hoodies!

Photo Credit - Flickr_bMethe

My first post on this topic was filled with so much pain and emotion that my thoughts were incohesive, and I believe that is ok. Though my heart is still broken, hopefully this one will be clearer.

This past Sunday many churches and groups across the nation held what they referred to as “Hoodie Sunday.” Individuals stood in solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family through this action. I commend churches and others for supporting the family in such record numbers and celebrate it as a great thing. But if we stop at making it about hoodies and skittles we fail!

It’s trendy to get in on this by wearing a hoodie, and make claims to care (and perhaps all involved actually do); but what will we do after this “big” case? People of color are being profiled, targeted, discriminated against and even slaughtered every day. These are individuals who will never make front page of a paper, be a blog post, cnn video or protest rally. And the silence prior to Trayvon has been somewhat deafening. And yet, rather than be too cynical I consider that maybe this situation is what we need to put a little fire under us and move us to a place of saying enough is enough. Let’s hope so. Here are some observations to consider that flow from the current situation at hand.

Unanswered Questions
There are questions in this tragedy that remain unanswered. Did Trayvon confront Zimmerman (the 911 tapes indicate that Zimmerman followed Martin)? Did Zimmerman feel threatened by Martin? Why did Zimmerman deem it necessary to shoot and even more importantly, why did he deem it necessary to shoot to kill? Why have the Sanford police department delayed arrest for a month? There is much that we don’t know….
What we do know is that Trayvon Martin is dead and his family and loved ones are experiencing intense grief. We also  know that death did not have to be outcome. We know that George Zimmerman is eleven years older than Martin was and weighed approximately 100 pounds more, and pursued Martin when instructed not to. The 17 year olds death was  unnecessary and avoidable – still it happened.
We know that the Sanford police department made certain that Martin’s system was checked for drugs and alcohol (even though he was the one dead), and failed to do the same with Zimmerman. Seems absurd to me!
Systemic Racism
As an African American woman I am intimately acquainted with racism. It is not an individual challenge, it is systemic. There are structures and power dynamics that work against people of color (not solely African American) in this nation called the US. And the truth is that systemic racism is more difficult to eliminate. People do not give up power easily. For those who make people of color feel as though we are somehow imagining that racism still exists, the disproportionate prison rates, reactions from dominant cultural groups when race is mentioned, and even educational institutions provide ample evidence that we are not naive and overreacting. It matters not whether individually we are the ones who put the structures in place, what matters is that we take responsibility for eradication of systems and structure that are oppressive to people groups.
Cultural Callousness
I hate that Trayvon Martin, an innocent teen is dead! And I wonder if perhaps this is one of the incidents that can be used to move society from a place of apathy and cultural callousness to a place of cultural sensitivity. Trayvon is not the first African American teen to be the recipient of violence. This type of thing happens all the time and we fail to care deeply enough to act and say enough is enough or even more importantly to engage in preventative measures. It’s time to change!
Societal Biases
It matters not how spiritual or not spiritual one is, all cultural groups have their biases, preferences and affinities. This is normal, natural. The trouble arises when we move beyond biases to a place of disregard and disdain for those who differ from us. Biases are not license for hatred, discrimination and violence. I do not often take things personal, however in the middle of the Trayvon case and all of the emotional pain it causes, I read an article and tweet reactions to the popular Hunger Games and admittedly it sent me over the edge. The overt racist comments by not just one, but many nearly took me by surprise. Perhaps this is because most racist individuals I have encountered are not as blatant.
I then read of another hate crime towards an Iraqi woman and became even more baffled by the audaciousness of any cultural or racial group to see themselves as somehow greater than another. We’re better than this aren’t we? In the depths of my being I believe that EVERY individuals is precious and valuable because of our Creator!
Additionally, there are those who minimize the realities of racism and biases as though we are somehow imagining these things. To deny a person their right to their stories is to insult their equality as unique creations of God. To deny a person’s story is to see them as liars, disrespect them, invalidate their experiences and further exasperate the issues of inequality.We must deny no one the right to have a story!
So, like I said, it’s really not just about hoodies, it goes much deeper than that. And the question remains, what are WE going to do about it from this day forward?  ” Now we must go from wearing hoodies to transforming the hood as we fight for justice! – Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III