February 10, 2021
By: Hannah Edwar
It won’t happen suddenly. You might not even notice it at first. It starts with a bad day, a bad month, and soon enough it’s not even about your circumstances anymore. Regardless of who you are and what’s going on in your life, your mood will be off. You’ll smile and laugh, go out and dance, but at your very core you will feel helpless and lonely. Then day by day, life becomes less attractive and you will feel little motivation to make an effort. You will wake up one day and, all of a sudden, the idea of ending your life won’t seem so far fetched. That’s a scary moment – the moment you understand what all those awareness ads about suicide are saying, and they suddenly become relatable.
We don’t talk about depression. We don’t talk about suicide. They are topics society has deemed taboo. Living through a pandemic presents so many triggers for depression. The pandemic has robbed us of our daily routines and forced us to physically disconnect. Simple pleasures that usually help us through our bad days have become distant memories. A comforting hug, lunch with friends, a night at the movies or just the act of physically being around people are activities now wrapped in fear and worry. We start our days by choosing between staying home and isolating from the world, or going out to fight loneliness while burdened with guilt and anxiety of the risks we’re taking. Death, a subject our society rarely talks about, has now become an everyday occurrence and we are so unprepared to deal with all of the confusing emotions it brings with it. It is an exhausting cycle to be stuck in everyday for months without a light at the end of the tunnel.
We are living in a time where the simple act of breathing carries with it a health risk; so if you’re not struggling with your emotions, you aren’t paying attention to the facts. Feeling anxious, depressed, low on energy or going through a rollercoaster of emotions on a daily basis isn’t the problem. The problem is that we are not acknowledging those feelings; we fight them with statements like “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, “what is wrong with me”, “I need to snap out of it”, or “maybe I just need some time away from everyone”. None of which actually help because we are refusing to treat mental illness like any other physical ailment. We don’t give it the attention we give a skin rash and we treat thinning hair with more urgency than we do our own mental state. The obstacle here isn’t just the social stigma; we lack the understanding to differentiate between a bad mood and a chronic mental disease. The few who decide it might be time to ask an expert have no idea where to start.
We need to add depression and anxiety as symptoms of COVID-19. Mental health needs to become a public health priority. Treat it as a diagnosis that requires professional help and not just a bad mood swing. Take care of people who are isolating, disconnecting or acting out just as much as you would a fever or a cough. Everything we know today proves that these symptoms are much more common and just as serious as the virus itself. The path from “I’m just having a bad month” to “I don’t want to live” is shorter than you think. Check on loved ones, be kind and stay safe.
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