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.
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.’
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.