Since 1990, the first week of October has been recognized as National Mental Illness Awareness Week by the U.S. Congress. Under the leadership of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health advocates across the country are joining together this week to sponsor numerous awareness-raising activities based on the theme of “Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives.”
Here at PatientsLikeMe, we have thousands of patients sharing their experiences with more than a dozen mental health conditions, including 7,699 patients who report major depressive disorder and 1,638 patients who report postpartum depression. What do they have to say? Below is a “word cloud” of some of the most commonly used phrases on our mental health forum. The most popular single word, by the way, is “meds.”
This graphic (which you can click to enlarge) gives you a feel of the many emotions, concerns and thoughts that surround the topic of mental health. But the best way to increase awareness and knowledge, we believe, is to learn from real patients. According to NAMI, one in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year, while one in 17 lives with a serious, chronic mental illness.
To help show what it’s like to live with depression, we thought we’d share some of our members’ candid answers to the question, “What does your depression feel like?”
- “My last depressive state felt like I was in a well with no way to get out. I would be near the top, but oops….down I go. I truly felt that I would not be able to pull myself out of this one. I felt hopeless, worthless and so damn stupid, because I could not be like other people, or should say what I think are normal people.”
- “It feels like living in a glass box. You can see the rest of the world going about life, laughing, bustling about, doing things, but they can’t see you or hear you, or touch you, or notice you at all, and you cannot remember how to do the things that they are doing, like laughing, and just being ordinary and satisfied with it. You are totally alone although surrounded by people.”
- “It feels like walking in a dimly lit hallway (or totally black, depending on the severity) with no exit in sight and no one else around. You keep walking hoping to come to the end, trying to feel along the walls for some sort of door that will take you out of this tunnel, but to no success. At the beginning you feel like there has to be an end or a door of some sort – something to get you out, but as you keep walking, your hopes damper by each step. You try yelling for help, but no one hears you.”
- “Depression is very much like feeling as if I have no arms nor legs and (what’s left of) my body is upright in the middle of a road on a cold, dark, foggy morning. I can’t run. I can’t walk or crawl. In fact, I have no options. I have no memory of how I came to be there. I know I’m going to die, I don’t know when or exactly how. There’s nobody around who sees me or understands my situation. If somebody gets close by and I scream, they’ll run away in fear. My family has no idea where I am and I’m alone… except for the headlights down the road.”
Can you relate to any of these descriptions? If you’ve battled depression, we encourage you to join our growing mental health community and connect with patients just like you. Also, stay tuned for another blog later this week about the types of data being shared by our mental health members.