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Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Published on July 9, 2022

Mental health is a very near and dear issue for me. Please know I write this only to try and help, not judge or degrade victims of this suffering. I’ve experienced these things to a great degree and wish none of them upon anyone because, quite honestly, I fear mental illness more than death. This article will focus on depression because that is the experience I can personally speak to. Not only is mental illness a major issue in today’s world, but it is also a direct cause of other issues like gun violence. A study done by the American Public Health Association revealed that since 1970, around 60% of mass shooting perpetrators have displayed symptoms of mental illness, including delusions and depression. With this in mind, you need to take the time to understand what victims of mental illness experience and how you can help them. 

People often misunderstand those who are affected by mental health issues. There is a widespread negative stigma around victims, and the fire is only fueled by cultural stereotypes and misinformation in news.  It is easy to look at an individual struggling with a disorder and make negative assumptions about them, but in reality, it is impossible to know specifically what that person is experiencing. And in the case of the individual being unjustly judged, it becomes a lifestyle of hopelessness and loneliness. One of these mental illnesses is depression. It cannot be completely understood without having experienced it. With that said, it is important for people who are not affected by this to understand the struggle that it is, and be able and prepared to help those who conceal the pain on the inside. 

That previously mentioned stigma around mental illness victims is right on because I have encountered many people who are, to be fair, unaware of my struggles but also display their negative beliefs regarding victims like myself. These interactions not only make me uncomfortable in the moment but also unwilling to open up and let others help me.

Depression is becoming more common across the world. Communities on familial and local levels need to become aware of this fact. With the ability to identify and understand depression, society can begin helping those in need. Again, it is a concept that cannot be truly understood without having experienced it. Depression is often caused by a perceived lack of companionship, hope, and self-worth. These thoughts result in many negative outcomes, including disconnection from society, loss of awareness and interest in life, and the use of societal masks to hide the pain.

I have had expert experience with this over the last five or so years, often feeling as though the world is falling down on top of me. There was never really a day I can remember or a moment when I can say it started. It just slowly crept into my mind and I believe that once mental illness has set in, it never truly goes away. I’d say two of the most significant things that added to my depression were the pandemic commencing my senior year of high school, which caused me to graduate from my living room, and in general, my first year of college, which was simply put lonely and miserable. Since then, I have made some great friends who have helped me, but there are always good days and bad days. As I said, it never goes away, and for me, mental illness is the closest thing to hell on earth.

In my experience, there are three primary drivers behind depression. The first one is a lack of companionship. This could practically look different for many people, but the idea is similar for all. People depend on relationships to provide comfort and a place to confide in times of need. However, when individuals depend too much on a certain person or thing, the loss of that relationship leads to a dramatic negative shift in mentality. For example, a naturally introverted first-year college student who clung to their parents and pets will suddenly lose those relationships as they begin a new journey away from home. They struggle to make new friends and do not connect with their roommate. These negative outside experiences can lead to extreme thoughts of loneliness and leave the person depressed and disconnected from society. Lack of companionship is often the first experience of depression and can lead to the subject essentially becoming a hermit, keeping to themselves with nobody to check on them. 

Another cause of depression is a lack of hope. This differentiates from companionship in that lack of hope is the same feeling for everyone and occurs when an individual is already lonely. Everyone has experienced a point of hopelessness in their lives, whether it concerns job security, finances, or relationship status. But when it comes to being depressed, hopelessness is different. When searching for a purpose in life, one is never found. When searching for a reason to get out of bed in the morning, one is never found. There is a constant feeling of going through the motions and not truly accomplishing anything; just living life for the sake of living life. This feeling can lead to several outcomes, including consistent suicidal thoughts and a general loss of awareness and interest in life. It is likely that this hopelessness will cause that first-year college student to question why they are even on this earth. They will continue their college experience not because they are passionate about their major, but because their parents want them to. A 2021 study from Mayo Clinic Health showed that 44% of college students reported having depression and anxiety. Symptoms often include loss of interest in social activity, panic attacks, and generally being overwhelmed. Needless to say, hopelessness is a dangerous feeling. 

Finally, there is a lack of self-worth, which predictably stems from hopelessness. When a person is depressed to the point where they have little to no societal contact and struggle to find hope and meaning in their lives, the final step in the downward spiral is believing that they are worthless human beings. They throw away any and all values assigned to them through religion and relationships because they wonder where they went wrong in life. This leads to the use of societal masks. In other words, when subjects of depression do participate in societal activity, they pretend. That same college student creates a happy, healthy persona and has everything together. They laugh when others laugh and do what others do regardless of a previously established moral compass. And unfortunately, they get really good at it, so it becomes very difficult to tell if something is wrong. Self-degradation is accepted as the final stage of depression and corners the victim into a dangerous place.

If you’re struggling with mental illness of any kind today, I do think the best first step in feeling better is to tell someone. The first person I told was my best friend from high school, and it made me comfortable enough to tell others. Additional medication, so to speak, that I have used is talking to God, listening to music, and exercising. It will be different for everyone, but you need to find something to keep your mind from becoming overwhelmed. A 2020 study conducted by Reshma Hedge of the Middle East Journal of Family Medicine showed that the most effective treatment was a combination of talk therapy and antidepressant medication. The study also suggested physical exercise as a helpful activity. 

In today’s America, there are infinite reasons for people to become mentally ill, and we need to become not only aware of that but also able to help. Communities need to become aware of the many signs and understand that more often than not, silence speaks louder than words.



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