Hollywood Stars Could Learn From    #End the Stigma

February 27, 2017

Did you see it? Did you happen to catch the Oscars last night while Jimmy Kimmel paraded a bunch of “normal” people through the elite’s Academy Awards Ceremony? All of the celebrities were laughing while the “normal” people had their mouths hanging open and star gazes popping out of their eyes.

How nice of the Oscar producers to provide a unique form of entertainment for Hollywood’s top entertainers! The celebrities were actually able to see what we look like and act like up close and personal. And all they could do was laugh. Denzel Washington didn’t look like he was enjoying himself when asked to participate in a mock wedding. Perhaps he saw this charade for what it really was?

It reminded me of going to the zoo, and we get to laugh and gawk and point at the funny antics of the animals in their caged environment. The bus tour riders were no different. Their cages were invisible, but they were definitely being watched and controlled. They were allowed to be stared at and laughed at by Hollywood’s elite. Yes, the same ones who avow that they care so much about poverty, open borders, freedom of religion and speech. I found it very sad that they weren’t acting. With “eyes wide open” America got to see how Hollywood really feels about us working class people. Did anyone see one Hollywood celebrity who looked like these antics might be offensive to “normal” Americans? I think I smell some hypocrisy.

The shenanigans which unfolded last night at the Oscars is the perfect analogy for what I wanted to write about today. If you are at all familiar with my upcoming book, My Naked Face, you would know that I have several different niches to write about and which I care deeply about. Today I would like to address the mental health issue of depression and particularly what follows this person’s disease is the stigma that automatically comes attached to it by others who have never experienced having depression. (The same can be said for any mental health condition.)

It was obvious at the Oscars that the Hollywood elite were oblivious to understanding or connecting their own lives to the tour bus people who were being exhibited or flaunted in front of them. Thus, no understanding equals no real connection or empathy for how these people may live their lives. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, a stigma is “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something”. A stigma is also a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

The phrase #End the Stigma is one of my personal pet peeves. We are normal, intelligent people who have had the unfortunate circumstance of enduring a situation that was not our fault. There is usually some kind of trauma we have experienced. We have chosen NOT to seek professional help. This is our body’s way of shutting down and protecting our circumstance from other’s knowledge, all at our own detriment.

I understand and have lived with the stigma of depression and other mental health issues. I have felt the crushing burden and shame of the stigma of depression. In turn, I understand the importance of working towards ending the associated stigma.

The stigma of depression and mental health stigma is the primary reason that 80% of people suffering with mental health issues do not speak up and do not seek help. Forty million people in the United States suffer from depression. That means that approximately 25 million people suffer from depression in complete silence. In turn, this is the reason that approximately 40,000 people per year attempt suicide.

Unlike the emotional experiences of sadness, loss, and passing mood states, clinical depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with someone’s ability to function. Many people still believe that the prolonged and overwhelming symptoms of depression are “not real” or that the person should “try harder” and “just get over it,” which perpetuates the stigma of depression and mental health issues.

I believe that the general population needs to be educated about depression and mental health issues. They need to understand that just because they have not had to endure this state in their mind, this does not mean that it does not exist. If you have never had cancer, does this mean that the person with cancer should just “try harder”?

While the statistics are important, it is the stories of the people living with mental wellness issues that will compel others to speak up and seek help. We need to bring this down to a personal level, and encourage those with depression to tell their story. This is one of the reasons that I have to write my book to show others that it is okay to talk about your condition and to seek treatment. If the person living with depression or another mental health issue feels that they are not worthy of help or that they have no value, they are not likely to speak up and seek the help they need. Unfortunately, the symptoms of depression often force a person to carry these negative thoughts about themselves.

I want to tell them that “It is not your fault, and there is no shame!” I want to show them by example that this is not true.

Penny Hollick, Author/Speaker