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Rejection and ignorancefrom society is one of the main causes of depression and social anxiety.Rejection causes a series of emotional and spiritual issues that need to beaddressed. God did not create us to be antisocial. The need for humancompanionship, love, acceptance, and even touch is intrinsic to our natures.Rejection, however, can subjugate those needs creating even larger and moreserious issues. Feeling rejected from one of our most basic needs can have adevastating impact on the way we think, the way we see life, and the way wedeal with life.

 The hardest thing to overcome in a person’s life is theemotional impact of feeling rejected. Teenagers will go to extra-ordinarylengths to be accepted—sometimes by any group, good or bad. Adults areconstantly seeking a niche where they can be accepted and useful. Children whoare 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 ofrejection which makes it harder and harder to be accepted.

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The end result ofsuch a case is often depression and anxiety leading to suicide.Those who have friendsfrequently go through life unaware that others do not, because those others areso 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 withthe authentic intimacy that comes with sharing your life’s challenges withsomeone who cares – who will be sad because you are sad, happy because you feeljoy, worried if you are unwell, reassuring if you are hopeless. We areimprisoned even in crowded cities and at noisy parties.Depression is a disease of loneliness.

Many untreated depressives lackfriends because it saps the vitality that friendship requires and immures itsvictims in an impenetrable sheath, making it hard for them to speak or hearwords of comfort. It would be arrogant for people with friends to pitythose without. Some friendless people may be close to their parents or childrenrather than to extrafamilial friends, or they may be more interested in thingsor ideas than in other people.

The Relate research suggests that married peopleare mostly happier than the unmarried, but marriage is not right for everyone.Creating a social system that shoehorns people into relationships orfriendships they don’t want– as the Victorians sometimes tried to do in thename of good fellowship, or the Soviets in the name of communism – is notlikely to solve the ever-widening depression crisis. Insisting to people whodon’t want companionship that they’d be happier if they were less lonely is nota useful intervention.Many people, however, are desperate for love, but don’t know how to goabout finding it, disabled by depression’s tidal pull toward seclusion.Loneliness will not be fixed by medication, though pills may instigate thestability 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 allexperienced moments when we find ourselves a little down due to a lack of closefriendships.

If someone had no close relationships in herlife, it’s not a stretch to assume she would feel some powerful malaise as aresult. Recently, a study conducted over a five year period at the Universityof Chicago found that the presence of loneliness early in the five yearspan was an excellent predictor for depression later in the five year span. Infact, loneliness was an even better predictor than the presence of depressionitself 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 authenticityof their intentions. If someone missed a day of work because of allergies, manyof us would be more likely to be skeptical about whether or not the individualis actually sick or if he or she simply doesn’t want to cometo school or work. Not because we’re ignorant, but because everyone has had acold or allergies.Everyone knows that while it isn’t pleasant, it is very rarely severeenough to have to miss school or work.

But not many of us have dealt withcancer, and because we have no experience or understanding, we are able torespect it as valid. Perhaps the person has extreme allergies, and has areaction leaving them unable to breath, warranting an eventual trip to thehospital. Meanwhile, the individual with cancer may be feeling fine and capableof 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 thehospital, many would still be quick to judge him or her as lazy while able toforgive the individual with cancer. We tell the person with allergies to takesome Benadryl or an allergy shot and get back to school or work ASAP, becausein 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 ongetting better, and come back on their own time, assuring him or her that wecan’t possibly understand what they are going through but are perfectly willingto work with them upon their return to catch them up on everything they missedbecause of that horrible disease.

This is the same reason so much stigma exists around mental illness, andespecially depression and anxiety. We don’t know what it’s like to haveschizophrenia, and that lack of experience allows us to respect and fear it. Inthis case, ignorance fosters, at the very least, an acknowledgment that it is areal and serious disorder. Someone misses work or school because of abreakdown, episode, or hallucination, and we are quick to accept this as avalid excuse not to come to class or the office. On the other hand, if someonemisses work or school because of a panic attack or because the depression is sobad 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 breathbecause there’s nothing to worry about. We try to give them advice based onwhat we do when we’re nervous or sad, but what individuals with depression andanxiety are struggling with goes far beyond these normal and healthy emotions.And while the intention behind these offerings of advice is generally pure, allthey really serve to do is invalidate the very real and debilitating symptomsof entirely legitimate disorders.

If sadness and worry were not common emotions familiar to all people, wewould be much more concerned when individuals feel the intense symptoms ofanxiety and depression. But we do have these emotions, and although thesymptoms are just as intense, we are able to disregard them because ‘we knowwhat it’s like.’We don’t.

Ignorance is a problem that prevents a lot of people from recognizingthe severity of mental illness, and it does add to stigmasurrounding mental illness. However, it is not, in any way, the primarycontributor that we ascribe it to be. While we should beinformed and seek to understand the complexity and severity of mental health,ignorance is not the most harmful reaction to these conditions. The falsebelief that we do understand and our attempts to treat themwith trivial advice is the real injustice.       

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