Although it’s one of the most common mental illnesses, the misconceptions about depression are still prevalent and helping to contribute to the overall stigma that surrounds it. Everyone feels down in themselves from time to time, but the persistent sadness, apathy and hopelessness that comes with depression (along with a whole host of other symptoms) means that for the majority of sufferers, the illness dictates how they go about their everyday lives.
Depression not only includes the psychological symptoms that people may already be aware of (such as low mood, irritability, and a lack of motivation), but it can also have a huge physical impact, including symptoms like fatigue, disturbed sleep, and changes in appetite.
I first started to show signs of depression when I was 13 years old, and I’ve dealt with it on and off, to various degrees of severity, ever since. For several years I hid and invalidated how I felt out of fear that I ‘wasn’t depressed enough’ to warrant any form of help. Looking back, I realise that this was by no means the case, but I think that my willingness to go to huge lengths to hide my illness shows a lot about how society perceives depression and mental health as a whole. It shows that depression is still treated as a trivial illnessor a sign of weakness, a perception that shames people into completely hiding their problems.
With all of this in mind, I chose to keep my own struggles to myself, only confiding in a handful of people.Trying to portray that I was mentally well whilst simultaneously caught up in a spiral of depression and anxietyled to me becoming isolated from my friends and family, which ironically only made my depression worse. However, the support I received from the people I did confide in was the one thing that helped me keep it under control.
Fast forward to when I started university. My first semester in Leeds brought back all these feelings that I’d spent several years trying to manage. Moving to a new city, being put under a lot of stress, combined with the fact that I didn’t get along with any of my flatmates meant that by Christmas I was on the verge of dropping out altogether.
I feel extremely lucky in that despite the problems, I managed to carry on at university and find a group of people who at the very least try to understand what I’m going through. University has allowed me to become a lot more open about my mental health; the stigma hasn’t been entirely eradicated, but I feel that unless people like me use their voice to have an honest conversation about mental health, it never will. There are so many sources of support available at the university, including the Student Counselling Centre, Nightline, and Mind Matters society. Regardless of whether you choose to use these services, it’s important to know that there is always help available irrespective of the problem!