How Can We Start a More Open Conversation About Depression?

Friday, May 04, 2012

I attended an excellent presentation on depression given by Lisa Champion at the Filex Fitness Convention recently. The focus was on how helpful exercise can be in the management/healing process. A theme also touched on was the benefit many sufferers report from hearing other people talk about their experiences in dealing with the condition. There is no doubt that this can help them feel less alone and to see that there actually is hope.

However, we all know that depression is still commonly a taboo topic that many people are reluctant to admit to, or discuss, particularly in public.

Even though 20% of the population are afflicted at some time in their lives and that it is spread among all levels of society, the term “mental illness” is shameful.

While there is no doubt progress is being made – (those over 65 barely can talk about it at all) I would like to suggest we can learn something for the example of gays “coming out.”  Although there is still debate over elements of gay rights there is no debate that the example of prominent and respected people ‘coming out of the closet’ has helped alleviate the fear, isolation and shame experienced by many gay people.

Is it time we invented a tag, a euphemism, for “coming out” about having personally experienced depression? We know that many suffering in isolation will benefit and I think the person “walking the dog’ will benefit as well.

Maybe that term can work? Walking the black dog in public can have many benefits. Both sufferer and dog get some healthy exercise, the dog is exposed as being not as mean and ugly as thought and others will be encouraged to walk their dog as well, with better health all around.