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We Asked People How Their Loved Ones Responded to Hearing About Their Struggles With Mental Health

“It takes a whole lot of courage for someone to tell you ‘I’m not okay,’ but when someone does, you have to believe them.”

by Lia Savillo
29 November 2019, 9:20am

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

Although over 300 million people struggle with depression globally, the stigma still attached to mental health makes it difficult for them to seek out help.

It took years for me to talk to anyone about my depression and anxiety, only to receive disappointing, passive responses, such as “just pray” or “you’re fine.” This discouraged me to talk about it for a while, because it felt like every time I did, I was opening up my world to people who didn’t want to see it.

I eventually did and while I still got those reactions, I also learned that other people had the same experience as me.

It’s an important conversation to have, so we asked VICE readers: What did people say when you opened up about your mental health?

Ara

VICE: What did people say when you opened up about your mental health?

Ara: “Lol. The world doesn’t revolve around you.”

VICE: How did that make you feel?

Ara: I was discouraged, of course. It made me feel really upset because I needed someone who could empathise and provide a solution, instead of neglecting and laughing it off.

depressed
Photo by Andrew Le on Unsplash

Carla

VICE: What did people say when you opened up about your mental health?

Carla: “Just pray it away.”

VICE: How did you react to it?

Carla: It was my mother who had said that. It made me feel very misunderstood and not taken seriously, like she didn’t understand the severity of the issue. But it actually encouraged me to talk to my friends about it because I knew I wouldn’t get any support from my parents.

Marlo

VICE: How was your experience opening up about your mental health?

Marlo: The ones that mattered understood and stayed. The ones that didn't left.

VICE: What was that like?

It was hard at first, but honestly, with the help of those that mattered, it became a lot easier to talk about. I’m a mental health advocate, and am really outspoken about my mental health illness now, and how we need to understand it more.

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Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels

James

VICE: What was the first thing people said when you opened up about your mental health?

James: "It's all in your head, snap out of it."

VICE: Did this discourage you from talking to more people about it?

James: It was my parents who told me to do this and when your own parents tell you that, you feel that nobody in the world is going to understand your anxieties.

I’ve always been an overachiever and most of my anxiety comes from school and exams, especially since I was doing my level examinations that year. I would often break down and it got so bad that I couldn't leave my house without having a panic attack. I couldn't speak to anyone, so my parents took me to a psychologist where I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

My parents didn't know how to help me, teachers at school didn't know how to help me, and it took a whole lot of vulnerability for me to speak to my closest friends about it. It turns out, another one of my friends also had very bad anxiety and we now are each other’s support systems.

It takes a whole lot of courage for someone to tell you "I’m not okay," but when someone does, you have to believe them. People in school were very quick to judge, oftentimes assuming that we were "attention-seeking.”

It sucks that there's a whole stigma associated with mental health in Singapore. It makes people like me feel fucking useless and alone. It took a lot for me to open up and I was so anxious that someone was going to judge me for having anxiety, and that made me feel more anxious.

It's a vicious cycle and some days are just bad days. Unlike a cough or flu where you can easily take medicine, you have to pretend that you're all fine and happy and go to school or work.

Mental health should be just as, if not more, important than our physical health.

mental health question of the day
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Sam

VICE: How was your experience opening up about your mental health?

Sam: I talked to a professional. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here right now.

VICE: It’s great that someone listened to you. How did it make you feel to receive positive feedback?

My psychologist made me snap out of it. I remember him telling me not to waste my time on how others perceived me, nor let them influence me, and instead to take a stand for myself and start living my own life, or else it wasn’t worth it.

I told my mom but she is still skeptical about it. She doesn’t believe I could have problems that would make me feel that way because I’m young and have all I need, according to her.

Kira

VICE: What did people say when you opened up about your mental health?

Kira: “It’s just a phase; you’re being ungrateful. What is there to be stressed about?”

VICE: Who said that and how did you feel about it?

Kira: This came from my dad, who happens to be a doctor too. You’d think he would understand with his medical background, but he didn’t, and that was really disappointing.

mental health question of the day
Photo by Paola Chaaya on Unsplash

Yanna

VICE: What did people say when you opened up about your mental health?

Yanna: “You’re totally fine. Relax.”

VICE: Did you feel like hearing that helped?

Yanna: No. It was like, wow, thanks, that totally cured my depression. This came from a significant other and it made me feel like I couldn’t even open up to my best friend in the world. We eventually broke up and I’ve been going to therapy.

Wes

VICE: What was the first thing people said when you opened up about your mental health?

Wes: “You're supposed to be a man. Man up.”

VICE: Did this discourage you from talking to more people about it?

Wes: Initially, yes. I felt closed in. There was no one I could turn to. I was too ashamed to talk to my family about it because of what others had told me. I really thought I wasn’t a man.

One day, I snapped. I don’t remember much but when I came to my senses, my knuckles were bleeding. Apparently, I was punching the wall. I told my sister and broke down in tears. I’m so lucky I have a family that understands. My sister took me to see a psychologist and I spent four months working on my mental health. Such a big difference nowadays.

Mental health needs to be more recognised so people don’t feel ashamed of seeking help. I’m lucky to have my family, my sister. It makes you wonder how many lives have been lost because people had no one to turn to, no one to help them through the pain. We all need somebody to lean on.

Names changed to protect privacy. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Find Lia on Twitter and Instagram.

Tagged:
Health
lifestyle
mental health
Asia
depression
anxiety
stigmatisation