#FaceTheDepression is tackling the taboo
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#FaceTheDepression is tackling the taboo

Simon Balissat
Zurich, on 10.03.2021
Around a quarter of people in Switzerland have a depressive disorder. And yet, it’s something that’s rarely spoken about. Affected people are using Twitter to give depression a face. It’s a big and important step in the right direction.

«Oh come on, you're always in a great mood and so funny. That's not depression!». A phrase I heard many times five years ago. A phrase that dragged me further and further down. I was great at surpressing my depression by hiding behind laughs and jokes. Thankfully, I got professional help when I didn’t know where to turn. I waited way too long before seeing a psychiatrist. «I’ll get through this. I’m not a wimp,» is what I kept telling myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s very rare that people with depression can cure their condition themselves. They need help from professionals. And by professionals, I don’t mean self-proclaimed shamans, spiritual healers or the Internet.

A broken leg also needs a cast to grow back together nicely. Depression needs to be treated with a therapy and (in my case) medication. The problem is that you can’t see depression. Unlike a physical illness, it’s also much harder to admit to yourself that you’re sick. While a cast tells everyone around you that you’re unwell, there’s no visual aid that goes with a mental illness. A Twitter hashtag is now working on bringing depression out of the dark.

«Everyone has bad days…»

The hashtag #FaceTheDepression wants to give depression a face. It’s a movement that involves Twitter users with depression uploading a photo of themselves. Many of them have smiles on their faces, seem happy and cheerful. None of them look like they’re depressed. But their comments reveal what’s behind the photo: «Me in the darkest phase of my depression», one of them states. Or: «Not everyone who's smiling on the outside is smiling on the inside.».

From my own experience, I can tell you that knowing other people are going through similar things is an important step towards healing.

Hard to handle

Being pitied by individuals who don’t suffer from depression themselves can be difficult to digest. Statements like «I’ve had rough days and managed to pull myself together,» only add fuel to the fire of a blazing depression. I’m sure I must have said similar things to people suffering from the illness myself before I knew better. Without any experience, dealing with depressed people is very difficult. After all, how can you know what someone else feels like and what would do them good? Having said that, the Internet does have some valuable information on how to help.

The chances are high you know someone with depression. According to a study from 2017 (in German), a quarter of people in Switzerland said they had suffered at least once from mild depression. And numbers are rising.

Depression is an illness

Today, I’m doing really well. I know where to get help and I get it as soon as I feel a hint of depression. However, what I’ve learned from this doesn’t change the fact that there’s a huge need to raise awareness. With family members, friends, work colleagues and employers.

If you have the flu or a broken leg, there’s no question you're staying home. But what happens if you withdraw for a few days because of depression? This should be treated equally, right? No questions asked. Of course, a Twitter hashtag isn’t about to solve the problem. But it’s a step in the right direction. A step towards seeing depression for what it is: an illness that’s treatable and should be talked about.

To this effect, here’s a photo of when I was at rock bottom.

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Do you ever think about taking your own life? Are you desperate and have lost all hope? Does your life seem meaningless or a situation hopeless? Please get in touch with somebody who’s there to help people in situations like yours. This includes emergency departments of hospitals, general practitioners as well as independent psychotherapists to name but a few.

Dial 143 for 24/7 telephone counselling service. This service is also available online: www.143.ch.

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Simon Balissat
Simon Balissat
Teamleader Editorial, Zurich
When I flew the family nest over 15 years ago, I suddenly had to cook for myself. But it wasn’t long until this necessity became a virtue. Today, rattling those pots and pans is a fundamental part of my life. I’m a true foodie and devour everything from junk food to star-awarded cuisine. Literally. I eat way too fast.

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