It is Okay to Talk about Depression
I've decided that mental illness is the new sex.
Hmmm, I probably have to back up and explain myself. There really is some logic behind that pronouncement, trust me.
A study was released last week that showed that primary care physicians are not talking to depressed patients about whether they have suicidal thoughts or not. Apparently, primary care doctors only broached the subject 36% of the time. Kind of crazy when you think about it. If someone's depressed, isn't it obvious that suicidal thinking, and possibly acting on it, is a danger?
The study started me thinking. Wasn't this the case with sex a few decades ago? Primary care physicians were not comfortable talking to patients about their sex lives. Nowadays, possibly due to the integration of sexuality into popular culture and the media, that subject is less taboo and less embarassing.
But unfortunately that's not the case with mental illness. We may think that the subject is integrated into the mainstream when we see so many news stories and books about it, but that's misleading. When's the last time that a tv show or movie depicted a character's depression in a matter-of-fact manner? It's almost never just part of the landscape; one facet of the story. Instead, it's the subject of the entire movie or show.
Now, I may be leaping to the wrong conclusion in thinking that the reason primary care physicians don't ask depressed patients about suicide two out of three times is that they're uncomfortable with the subject. Of course, the alternative is lack of knowledge about depression and suicide, which is hopefully not the case.
Let's just assume for the sake of argument that I'm right. Why is mental illness one of the last taboo subjects? What is so embarassing about it? I decided a long time ago that my depression was not going to be a taboo topic, and I can be positively assertive in bringing it up in conversation. But then, I'm on a mission to change the status quo, and I do keep in mind that being so open about my depression might cause problems with other people who have misconceptions about it.
It's somewhat ironic to me that this study came out the week before Mental Health Awareness Week. If our primary care physicians aren't aware enough or willing to discuss the potentially fatal result of depression with their patients, then I'm afraid we need to get a lot more aware than we are at this point.