Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Ignorance lengths to be accepted—sometimes by any

Ignorance from society:

                        Rejection and ignorance from society is one of
the main causes of depression and social anxiety. Rejection causes a series of
emotional and spiritual issues that need to be addressed. God did not create us
to be antisocial. The need for human companionship, love, acceptance, and even
touch is intrinsic to our natures. Rejection, however, can subjugate those
needs creating even larger and more serious issues. Feeling rejected
from one of our most basic needs can have a devastating impact on the way we
think, the way we see life, and the way we deal with life. The
hardest thing to overcome in a person’s life is the emotional impact of feeling
rejected. Teenagers will go to extra-ordinary lengths to be accepted—sometimes
by any group, good or bad. Adults are constantly seeking a niche where they can
be accepted and useful. Children who are accepted are significantly more
emotionally stable than those who are not. But those who feel rejected
from family and/or social circles develop a fear of rejection which makes it
harder and harder to be accepted. The end result of such a case is often
depression and anxiety leading to suicide.

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                        Those who have friends frequently go through
life unaware that others do not, because those others are so isolated as to be
socially invisible. In an era in which Facebook has made “friend” into a verb,
we often confuse the ambient intimacy of websites with the authentic intimacy
that comes with sharing your life’s challenges with someone who cares – who
will be sad because you are sad, happy because you feel joy, worried if you are
unwell, reassuring if you are hopeless. We are imprisoned even in crowded
cities and at noisy parties.

          Depression is a disease
of loneliness. Many untreated depressives lack friends because it saps the
vitality that friendship requires and immures its victims in an impenetrable
sheath, making it hard for them to speak or hear words of comfort. It
would be arrogant for people with friends to pity those without. Some
friendless people may be close to their parents or children rather than to
extrafamilial friends, or they may be more interested in things or ideas than
in other people. The Relate research suggests that married people are mostly
happier than the unmarried, but marriage is not right for everyone. Creating a
social system that shoehorns people into relationships or friendships they
don’t want– as the Victorians sometimes tried to do in the name of good
fellowship, or the Soviets in the name of communism – is not likely to solve
the ever-widening depression crisis. Insisting to people who don’t want
companionship that they’d be happier if they were less lonely is not a useful
intervention.

            Many people, however,
are desperate for love, but don’t know how to go about finding it, disabled by
depression’s tidal pull toward seclusion. Loneliness will not be fixed by medication,
though pills may instigate the stability to open up to friendship’s
liabilities: potential rejection, exhausting demands, the need for
self-sacrifice.

Loneliness and depression have always gone hand-in-hand. We’ve all
experienced moments when we find ourselves a little down due to a lack of close
friendships. If someone had no close relationships in her
life, it’s not a stretch to assume she would feel some powerful malaise as a
result. Recently, a study conducted over a five year period at the University
of Chicago found that the presence of loneliness early in the five year
span was an excellent predictor for depression later in the five year span. In
fact, loneliness was an even better predictor than the presence of depression
itself early in the five year span.

 

If a person were to skip class or miss a day of work because of cancer,
almost no one would question the validity of their condition or the
authenticity of their intentions. If someone missed a day of work because of
allergies, many of us would be more likely to be skeptical about whether or not
the individual is actually sick or if he or she simply doesn’t
want to come to school or work. Not because we’re ignorant, but because
everyone has had a cold or allergies.

Everyone knows that while it isn’t pleasant, it is very rarely severe
enough to have to miss school or work. But not many of us have dealt with
cancer, and because we have no experience or understanding, we are able to
respect it as valid. Perhaps the person has extreme allergies, and has a
reaction leaving them unable to breath, warranting an eventual trip to the
hospital. Meanwhile, the individual with cancer may be feeling fine and capable
of working but is really just using it as an excuse to skip work or school.
Even in hearing that the person with allergies had to pay a visit to the
hospital, many would still be quick to judge him or her as lazy while able to
forgive the individual with cancer. We tell the person with allergies to take
some Benadryl or an allergy shot and get back to school or work ASAP, because
in our personal experiences, that’s how we handle a cold or allergies.
Meanwhile we are eager to encourage to cancer patient to get rest, focus on
getting better, and come back on their own time, assuring him or her that we
can’t possibly understand what they are going through but are perfectly willing
to work with them upon their return to catch them up on everything they missed
because of that horrible disease.

This is the same reason so much stigma exists around mental illness, and
especially depression and anxiety. We don’t know what it’s like to have
schizophrenia, and that lack of experience allows us to respect and fear it. In
this case, ignorance fosters, at the very least, an acknowledgment that it is a
real and serious disorder. Someone misses work or school because of a
breakdown, episode, or hallucination, and we are quick to accept this as a
valid excuse not to come to class or the office. On the other hand, if someone
misses work or school because of a panic attack or because the depression is so
bad they don’t have the energy to get out of bed, we tell them to get over it.
We tell them to cheer up and look at the bright side or to take a deep breath
because there’s nothing to worry about. We try to give them advice based on
what we do when we’re nervous or sad, but what individuals with depression and
anxiety are struggling with goes far beyond these normal and healthy emotions.
And while the intention behind these offerings of advice is generally pure, all
they really serve to do is invalidate the very real and debilitating symptoms
of entirely legitimate disorders.

If sadness and worry were not common emotions familiar to all people, we
would be much more concerned when individuals feel the intense symptoms of
anxiety and depression. But we do have these emotions, and although the
symptoms are just as intense, we are able to disregard them because ‘we know
what it’s like.’

We don’t.

Ignorance is a problem that prevents a lot of people from recognizing
the severity of mental illness, and it does add to stigma
surrounding mental illness. However, it is not, in any way, the primary
contributor that we ascribe it to be. While we should be
informed and seek to understand the complexity and severity of mental health,
ignorance is not the most harmful reaction to these conditions. The false
belief that we do understand and our attempts to treat them
with trivial advice is the real injustice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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