Friday, 07 October 2011
I'm Daniel Saroff, Chair of the Registration and Web Teams for Strides Against Stigma, and Board Member of Families for Depression Awareness. Denise, my wife of 16 years, companion of 19 years and friend for 24 years, committed suicide in 2010 after struggling with depression since her teens. Depression destroys lives and is particularly pernicious because it destroys those very coping skills we can best use to fight it: faith in self, trust in others, belief in self worth, ability to seek help, trust that things can get better.
So, how does this relate to Strides Against Stigma? Because with this great weight, this midnight through which the person with depression must struggle, they also fight the weight of judgment from others (strangers, friends, family, co-workers) who may label depression a “weakness,” a “character flaw,” an “affectation.” The stigma of depression only compounds the dark effects of a disease that eats away at the self.
I remember a story Denise told. She worked for a medical researcher with whom she had been honest about her struggles with depression. One day the researcher took Denise aside, when she was particularly struggling, and said, “Have you tried wearing more makeup and getting your hair done? That always makes me feel better when I'm down.” Smart, educated, and she had no idea what depression was and how it was different from the garden-variety blues even though Denise had confided in her for years about her disease.
I want to end the weight of societal judgment that rests on people with depression, unlike almost any other disease victims. We must not ask the ill to struggle against their depression and against judgmental glances of those around them. This is can be a double share of weight too great to bear. We have managed to remove much of the stigma from other terrible sicknesses (HIV, leprosy, polio to name a few). It is now time to excise it from depression.
Join us in ending the stigma of depressive disorders. This is but the start, and there can be no end without help.
--Daniel Saroff, Chair of the Registration and Web Teams for Strides Against Stigma, Board Member of Families for Depression Awareness