TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS CONTENT WHICH MAY BE DISTRESSING. This week someone I know killed themselves. I didn't know them well and I had no idea they were struggling with mental illness, so I am really quite shaken by it. Looking back, it explains some of their behaviour, but I didn't put one and two together. I hope I'll learn to recognise it in the future.
In a rather unusual text conversation, a friend and I were discussing suicide. I know, not a conversation you'd expect to have by text but hey, the upside is, I've got a record of it to paste into this post.
I had a very interesting comment on my blog two weeks ago (not on this site, but on www.dpsn.net.nz where I cross post), in which I talked about the many reasons why I dislike labelling people having mental health concerns as having an “illness”.
The question went something along the lines of: “Now Barbara, I know that you talk a lot about depression being a reaction to the environment and that sounds reasonable to me. But, could there be another type of depression? One in which your very complicated body and/or brain can “break down” and stop working on its own? Causing some kind of chemical imbalance that occurs independently of your environment?”
The question is reflective of what is probably a quite widely held understanding as to the nature of depression and other mental health concerns. Most of the information that people are exposed to about this area comes from public awareness campaigns. While these campaigns hopefully go some way towards reducing discrimination, they offer little in the way of explanation as to where depression actually comes from. One prominent campaign line even states, “there may be no obvious cause.”