Depression, the stigma and the reality

Photo: Zeevveez/Flickr
By Yousif Farah

This week is Depression Awareness Week, a week to reflect upon our approach towards mental illness. One in four of us is likely to develop a mental illness at some stage of our lives.

The week aims to raise both awareness and funds to end the loneliness and isolation of depression, and the stigma surrounding it through highlighting what it means to live with the illness.

At Poached Creative mental health is central to our work. As well as working with many local and nationwide mental health bodies and charities including the NHS and Hackney youth charity Off Centre, we have trained many people who have suffered from depression through our Big Issue Online Journalism Course. Many of them have defeated their depression and moved on with their lives - now they are invaluable assets to us here at Poached.

Angela Williams, Deputy Director at Poached says:

“I began my training with Poached Creative when it started in 2009. I was going through some dark times with my depression, training with Poached gave me the confidence, a purpose and a “leg up” to work in a creative environment. Through more people speaking out about mental illness, we can push away the stigma and show that people from all walks of life can be affected, but also treated with dignity and respect.”

Depression - a brief history
It wasn't until the fifties that depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder by medical care professionals, was linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Prior to that, mental health patients were locked in asylums and treated through basic methods which included sedation, baths and even electrical shocks. At the time, many people dismissed depression as a weakness in the patient’s personality or willpower.

1959 saw the introduction of the landmark Mental Health Act, followed up by advances in psychiatry and drug treatment, and greater emphasis on human rights accompanied by advances in social science and institutionalisation theory. 

More recently, steps have been taken in terms of addressing the issue in the UK.

In the 2010 Equality Act a mental health illness is recognised as a disability if it has a long-term effect on the patient’s normal day-to-day life.

Mental health in the media
Mental health, and depression in particular, are topics often neglected in the mainstream media, overshadowed by coverage of other physical illnesses. 

Public figures such as Alastair Cambell have contributed to a better understanding of mental health issues.
Sadly, some people still ridicule mental illness and those affected by it.

This is what television personality Katie Hopkins had to say to patients suffering from depression:

"To be diagnosed as depressed is the holy grail of illness for many. The ultimate passport to self-obsession. Get a grip, people".

Her remarks caused a public outrage. Katie Hopkins is known for making controversial statements so it's hard to know whether she has been educated of the realities of depression, or whether she views mental illness through subjective light.

The reality of life for a depressed person is bleak: performing daily tasks which a mentally stable person normally takes for granted such as reading a book, talking to a friend or even getting out of bed represents a challenge.

When the demons of depression take over the patient’s life, they can become emotionally destabilised or disconnected and end up isolating themselves. The more severe the symptoms, the more isolated the person becomes, and unless treated the depression is likely to have a devastating impact on someone’s career, relationships or even own life.

Fortunately, organisations like the Depression Alliance, who are behind Depression Awareness Week, have information and help available on their website.

Find out more about Depression Awareness Week and how you can get involved.

Working together to create jobs for young people

By  Rooney John

Young people are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Over the past five years, Poached Creative and Mediorite have been helping to address this problem in Hackney, by providing the skills, support and guidance young people need to start their journey into employment.

Without qualifications, professional networks, skills, experience, support and guidance, many young people lack the confidence they need to find meaningful work and fall into a cycle of increasing isolation.

Even with great skills, many young people can find it hard to move into the world of work. We have recently come across several social enterprises and initiatives that offer practical solutions to youth unemployment here in our home borough of Hackney. Here are few:  

  • Create Jobs helps young people from East London find a career in Arts and the Creative Industries. They make it easier for employers in the Arts and Creative Industries to take on young East Londoners by shortlisting the candidates, offering support and advice and through helping them to access incentives.
  • Bootstrap provides training and employment opportunities to people aged 18-24 and who are interested in setting their own business through providing them expert support.
  • Task Squad matches young people that have voluntary experience with organisations looking to fill short term paid employment.
  • Hackney 100 is providing paid work placements for young people in creative Hackney businesses.

Samantha Sparrow, Director at Task Squads says:

 “Most young people who come to us have really bad CVs that don’t explain the great skills that they actually have, so as well as providing work opportunities we help them develop great CVs that really showcase what they have achieved.”

"Young people bring a particular set of skills to the workplace and are incredibly motivated people when they get given the opportunity to work.”

At Poached Creative and Mediorite we will continue to work with organisations dedicated to finding a solution to youth unemployment, training and mentoring young creatives to help them build their futures.