Labelling – Our Obsession With Depression

As a modern society, we love to label our issues.

It gives us a scapegoat to every situation that doesn’t go to plan, in a bizarre way it makes us feel ironically good about ourselves and worst of all, it gives us a reason we can justify to ourselves as to why, not, to act. Casual labelling of our mental health issues such as depression, depressed, depressive….augments the very state we should be trying to avoid, identifying ourself with that state.

A critical distinction I shall make at this point is that I am referring only to neurotic conditions, those extreme forms of ‘normal’ emotional experiences. Far more common in occurrence than psychotic symptoms such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which are in themselves an entirely separate subject.

Why stop at just depression, there’s also a twisted craving for OCD, anxiety and “personality disorders.” They all sound great when dodging all accountability in the face of adversity.

Now this is not to say that genuine mental illness does not exist

…..of course it does….Royal College of Psychiatrists statistics report that only 2% of the UK population experience clinical OCD yet I would argue up to 1 in 5 people I know have professed to some form of OCD self branding. Now maybe this says something about my close council, I suspect it says more about our societies growing desire to use mental illness labels.

Everyone knows that one kid who was expected to win the race or score the most goals and he had a shocker, only to afterwards conveniently blame a mythological onset of flu or a tweak in his ankle that only he perceives. Well our brain does have the power to create such issues should we chose to believe it so virulently. So when Jonny turns up to school the next day and he’s coughing and wheezing, everyone feels guilty for berating him the day before when in fact he was most likely just having a bad day at the office….it happens to the best of us.

Mental health, in my experience, works in much the same way.

A combination of physical, psychological and environmental factors play a role, and difficult life events (often highlighted as a trigger for mental decline) would throw up challenges in all three of these areas in abundance. After all we are only human but there is a misconception that our mental health is somehow predetermined in our genetics, at worst we can have a strong disposition to develop such an illness, it has been scientifically proven by the Department of Health that no baby is born with mental illness (Department of Health), our experience in life and our responses determines our fait. We need to be less accepting of mental stigmas, we don’t accept it with physical wellbeing….start to take control of your mind today and prepare yourself for any challenge that life may throw at you tomorrow.

living with depression

How a mental health battle takes shape

A guy finds out his wife is having an affair with his best mate, the embarrassment (psychological factor), the isolation (environmental factor) and the change in location as he moves out of their marital home (physical factor), you can start to see why this would take it’s toll on this guy’s mental wellbeing.

At this point in time, the moment he finds out, he is still in control, he has not “lost his mind” as this discovery occurs….the situation has thrown him a curveball that he hadn’t anticipated and certainly would not expect to face on a daily basis. He really has two choices in how to conduct the role his mental wellbeing plays as a reaction depending on his preparedness:

  1. He plays the victim, takes on board every ounce of self pity, anger, despair and whatever other negative emotion his sponge of a brain can soak up along the way, inevitably stirring up a self perpetuating spiral of stressors that put him into a “depression.” One month later he has quit his job, cut off contact with his friends and family and moved away from the area, citing depression for his woes.
  2. He plays the hero, upset and nonetheless let down by this discovery he dodges the immediate fallout, the unavoidable tsunami of emotion hurtles toward him and crashes into his tranquility like a flood barricade, you see he takes it all in but decompartmentalises it as “noise.” After all, he has done nothing wrong here, the situation has forced his hand but he knows he has the cards to play out, whatever the weather….he begins to plot out his next best moves to gain more clarity of mind, spends lots of time with supportive family and friends, side steps the immediate trauma in front of him, slowly breaking it down over time to suit his plans as best possible.

Option 1, was me, for the majority of my adult life.

The real instigator of my woes, me and my failure to address my mental wellbeing proactively as a thriving young adult in this unforgiving world we live in.

Compare it to a mountain climber falling 50 feet down into a ravine, now if that climber is prepared physically for the accent by himself, he can face that challenge immediately and get his way back to where he fell down from, if however, he hasn’t prepared himself appropriately, he isn’t strong enough to make the climb, he may stay at the bottom of the ravine until he dies of hunger….it is his preparedness in physical health that stands him in good stead for a speedy recovery and mental wellbeing is no different.

Another way to look at mental wellbeing is saving for a once in a lifetime summer holiday. If you don’t make a concerted effort to save for the holiday, yes you may scrape together enough pennies to head off to the same perfectly “fine” two weeks in the sun you had last year. Chances are you won’t save enough dollar to walk the beaches of Mauritius like you dreamt of. If you want the same results in your life as last year, then just continue to do (or not do) everything the same, but if you want to evoke change, a significant improvement in some aspect or you want to achieve something profound in your life…..then you have to take the initiative. “All that we are is the result of what we have thought” – and nobody questions the Buddha!

Being proactive with your mental wellbeing can be the difference between burying yourself in a depression at the bottom of that ravine, or ascending to the top of the mountain, taking in the incredible views from the top and picking your next challenge to take on!


For anyone interested in learning more about what clinical depression actually is:

Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn’t the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder. We need to be far more careful with our labels, we wouldn’t label a broken leg as anything else, so let us not be casual with our mental health.

3rd February 2017