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Let's Bring an Ice-Bucket Level of Awareness to Depression, Too

08/22/2014 12:07 EDT | Updated 10/22/2014 05:59 EDT
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Two women get doused during the ice bucket challenge at Boston's Copley Square, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 to raise funds and awareness for ALS. The idea is easy: Take a bucket of ice water, dump it over your head, video it and post it on social media. Then challenge your friends, strangers, even celebrities to do the same within 24 hours or pay up for charity. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

A very valid point was brought to my attention today when I was watching a YouTube show called "Pretty Strong Opinions" hosted by comedian Grace Parra. In light of the recent national reach and magnitude of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, she suggested that a similar campaign could be brought forward to increase awareness for depression. This is not a post suggesting that depression is comparable to ALS or any other physical or psychological disease and disorder which deserve equal broadcasting time in the media.

But the reality of depression is that its stigma alone prevents society from accepting it as a valid ailment worth of recognition, let alone promoting the need for awareness. I know the uneasiness that the mere word depression causes. I watch co-workers, friends, and family members fidget with pen, paper, or whatever is at hand rather than have to stare directly at me as my depression hits.

It's awakened by a tangle of sadness stuffed away in my gut suddenly shoots up from my stomach into my heart and brain where it reminds me that I suck at my job; that my kids hate me; that I'm shitty at everything. And as that tangle of sadness wraps itself around my head like a blindfold, my abrupt quietness alerts those around me that I'm sinking; that I am no longer part of the conversation; that I don't even remember what we were talking about.

Even a physician, when confronted by my words of sorrow; by my admission of suicidal ideas smirked; smirked as though my feelings were nothing more than a prelude to menopause. I knew however that this doctor was not entertained by my agony; rather he was so discomfited by it that his feet shuffled under his desk as he wrote me a referral to see yet another psychiatrist. This is the problem. Depression is not broadcasted. It is downplayed. According to some, it is not even real; it is a figment of the imagination of 350 million people worldwide who suffer from depression (statistics from the World Health Organization).

So this is why I love the idea of mounting a campaign in which children and adults band together to acknowledge the severity and the legitimacy of this epidemic. Through common actions or sayings, which would unite everyone to the cause -- Ice Bucket Challenge has essentially united the nation to the need for awareness for ALS -- maybe we can finally, hopefully remove labels and enlighten the ignorant by showing a strong united front. We could even try to lessen the very obvious divide between those who suffer from mental illness and those who do not.

To do this, Parra suggested a social media campaign where posts and pictures about not-so-perfect moments are hashtagged #IFEELYOU.

Although depression is not comparable to not getting the job you wanted or missing out on the holiday you were hoping for, perhaps the sight of real, authentic reactions would help. It would definitely be better than the customary perfect white-toothed grin. Accompanying the photos by #IFEELYOU would, in time, acclimate society to the realization that some of us feel sadness and pain all of the time, and it's okay to see it and acknowledge it. Depression should no longer be hidden behind closed doors and under bed covers, but rather society should, at the very least, become as sympathetic to this disorder, as they were eager to pour ice water on their heads.

#IFEELYOU

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