When I read the tweets from the MMA fighter Andrew Tate stating that depression wasn’t real, I was firstly shocked but also deeply frustrated.
JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter franchise and an icon for my generation, thankfully responded on behalf of all angered individuals out there whose voices would not be heard. She stressed that his tweets would not tell you anything truthful about the very real mental illness and that ‘some of the most gifted, successful and gorgeous people’ she knew had suffered from it.
Without delving too deep into my own personal life, I have suffered at various points in my life and to Mr Tate I would simply say that each and every time, it was incredibly real to me.
The MMA fighter claimed in one tweet that depressed people are in such a state simply because their life is ‘depressing’, but there are so many things in my life I have to be thankful for, and I can see that now because I am in a state of relative good mental health. I have loyal wonderful friends, a fantastic supportive family, (mostly) good health and on the whole, some bright prospects for my future. What I don’t think Andrew quite understands is that depression is a neurological condition and can be entirely irrational. It is an illness, and cannot be explained by aspects of somebody’s life, or the extent to which they may have ‘lucked out’.
Mr Tate ignorantly stated that people are ‘too lazy’ to change their ‘depressing’ lives, but he is misinterpreting one of the major symptoms of depression as a choice; that of an overwhelming sense of lethargy and a view that life in its entirety is pointlessness. It is like telling someone with eczema they are choosing to show the symptomatic red itchy rash all over their bodies. Depression is an involuntary and very dramatic shift in perspective, a powerful voice in your head telling you that nothing you once held dear; people, hobbies, interests, or places are worth caring for any longer. If you have not suffered it, it really is the most unimaginably painful feeling and by disregarding it as ‘imaginary’ is truly hurtful. One thing I do find hard to understand is how people can see certain mental illnesses such as severe autism or schizophrenia as serious and valid, but depression, anxiety and stress-related mental conditions can be regarded as ‘imagined’ simply because they do not come across as so dramatic. Physical and mental illnesses may fall upon a spectrum and although some may have ‘worse’ or perhaps more debilitating symptoms, it does not render all others ‘invented’. Indeed, if he has never experienced the loss of a loved one from depression, I don’t think he can say it isn’t real.
Although Andrew’s viewpoint does upset me, I don’t blame him for having developed such an opinion, because it’s certainly been influenced by the lack of attention paid to mental health by the government and wider society. His viewpoint is not a new one, it simply happens to have been said by a celebrity and widely shared throughout the public. According to research carried out by the mental health foundation, depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide. I’m certain Andrew would never have said such inflammatory comments regarding paraplegics or the hearing impaired. What we need is not to get angry when comments such as these arise, we need to recognise them for what they are: a red flag that something needs to change.
We must improve the education on mental illness in schools, so that every new generation grows up understanding that physical and mental illnesses are to be taken equally seriously and require equal care and compassion. Each of us can do our bit by writing to our MPs, asking them to vote for bills which will decrease the disparity between NHS spending on mental and physical health.
(Image courtesy of Google)