Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mental illness is not a weakness

In the wake of Anthony Bourdain's suicide on June 8, 2018, there was a common refrain heard: "He had such an amazing life. He got to travel all over the world. He knew so many famous people. He was so successful. What did he have to be depressed about?"

Depression is not sadness. Depression is not disappointment with your station in life. Depression is an illness. Asking "What did he have to be depressed about, he's so rich and successful?" is about as dumb as saying "How can she have cancer, she's so pretty?" or "How can he have diabetes, he has such great hair?"

I know someone who has experienced a mental breakdown. I am no psychologist, but I expect this was a result of various stresses in conjunction with previously unrecognized chemical imbalances in the brain. But people ask, "How can this happen to this person? They've always been so strong." Mental illness has nothing to do with strength. Mental illness is not a weakness. Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Mental illness is an illness.

Do what you can. Send love, sure. Pray if it makes you feel better. Wish upon a star. But when it comes down to it, people with mental illness need treatment and support. If you are their friend, that means support from you, too. Learn what you can do to help them, to keep them going. Then do it.

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