Guest post: Marathon Marcus

Stigmas about depression push us back into the dark ages 

Let's look at some stigmas for people with depression:

Stigma 1: Looking sad or unkept shows that you are suffering. 

Truth 1: When in fact this is untrue you can use various defence mechanisms to disguise how you feel. Because of the shame of admitting to the illness, or at times lack of wanting to disclose the truth when asked, as if that will show you as weak. Some people with depression are very good at hiding it.

Stigma 2: Depression only comes about when something awful occurs.

Truth 2: Depression can be attributed to a number of different things, including biological imbalances, family history, hormones etc etc. Depression isn't only feeling sad for a short period of time, it can affect one's daily life for several months or years. It can feel mentally paralysing without treatment.  

Stigma 3: Attending talking therapy means that you are weak or crazy.

Truth 3: Attending talking therapy shows you acknowledge the challenge and your showing strength to manage it. Generally if  people have psychotherapy, people think your crazy. Whereas if you think about sports psychology or psychology courses used in corporate business that is somehow accepted as normal. Psychology however you brand it (life, work, sports) it allows you to look deeper into your problems and worries, and deal with troublesome habits, and better manage and recognise trigger points.

Stigma 4: People with depression are mentally weak.

Truth 4: It's said that when people commit suicide they generally don't leave suicide notes. Families and friends may know the person is struggling but are often left shocked that the pain experienced by their loved one is so extreme to end their life. People with depression can be very good at containing their illness, and not expressing the pain they truly feel for a number of reasons. If your not convinced have a read of the book Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Dr. Tim Cantopher 

Stigma 5: Depression is all in your head, there are no physical symptoms, it's not like having a broken leg.

Truth 5:
Physical symptoms include:
  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual 
  • Overactive bladder syndrome. The need to pass urine frequently
  • Change in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased) constipation
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido)
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)
  • Fight or flight. With all that adrenaline going round, it keeps you tense and it's not healthy to stay in a heightened state for a prolonged period (NHS 2016)

There are many other stigmas I could discuss but my point is that, depression is not imaginary. We all need to be conscious of it, and support those who we suspect are suffering with compassion rather than contempt.

How seriously do we treat illnesses like cancer? 

1 in 4 people will be affected by mental health. So let's look at the facts. In the UK the male suicide rate is the highest since 2001. The suicide rate among men aged 45-59, 25.1 per 100,000, is the highest for this group since 1981 (The Samaritans 2015).

The same way we take cancer seriously, is because people die from cancer and this is the same way we need to view depression which also takes lives. Even those who are alive it stops them from living.

There are lots of different treatments for mental health and your doctor is best placed to advise if your struggling.

But I believe that physical activity and connecting with others can help alongside other treatment.

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent people from relapsing. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

I've run 8 marathons and the benefits of physical exercise, have really helped in regards to the mental health challenges I've faced. And it is my goal to encourage other people in a similar situation to gain this benefit. And also witness other positive benefits of running in other aspects in their lives.

It's my goal to setup a running club, which focuses on well being, togetherness rather than egos and pb's. The running club is called Team Revenant. The word Revenant means someone who returns from a long absence, or a person or thing reborn. With depression it can bring people down, but I want to encourage people that there is a way back. Please help me break the stigma.

If your interested get in touch:

Twitter: @marathon_marcus
Instagram: @themarathonmarcus