Many who have felt the utter desolation of depressive episodes are compelled to help their fellow-sufferers. Mike and Michael’s stories in Depression: The Willpower Delusion and other stories in previous posts illustrate the compassion that arises from what they learned.
Those who have experienced depression know that willpower alone is not a cure, and they know what makes treatment even more elusive.
As Katie wrote in Depression: Help for Young People: “Our culture teaches us that mental illness is something we must keep to ourselves … something we should feel ashamed of.”
By stigmatizing it, our culture amplifies the pain that comes directly from depression. And there’s something even darker.
A friend who lost a family member to drug addiction, which stems from and is a form of mental illness, points out that addiction is far worse stigmatized.
I said little in Out of the Closet about my self-medication with alcohol, not because I want to keep it secret any more but because I did not become addicted. Enormous numbers of us are not so lucky.
Overcoming addiction takes both enormous courage and the right kind of support.
My friend wrote: “Drug addiction is condemned by our society and abused by the insurance industry. This person was sent home after 5 days of detox to an outpatient program that met three times a week for 3 hours. The insurer said they would pay for an inpatient program if the person failed the outpatient treatment.
“He failed. The insurer did not have to pay.”
Systems that result from our culture can be bewilderingly cruel. We don’t usually reflect much on culture. When we examine its results, it can be startling sometimes to see how very far things have gotten from being OK.
We don’t choose to become depressed, or become addicted, or get cancer. We might act in ways that put us at higher risk, or it might just happen. What is best for society in either case is that we get cured.
But recovery, or at least mitigation of the symptoms, is something we must choose. That can be an agonizing truth when a loved one is addicted.
Addiction can only be overcome by someone who has arrived where every other alternative, even suicide, feels worse. We may be able to help them arrive, but feeling cannot be commanded.
And there is a second agonizing truth. They may reach that feeling but be unable to get treatment.
We must end addiction’s stigma. That will make it less difficult to seek treatment, and it will make it no longer “acceptable” for insurers to deny coverage.