What does diabetes have to do with depression? It may appear that a comedy sketch on diabetes would not be the first place to learn about stigma against mental health, but hopefully I will change your mind. If you haven’t already, have a look at the hilarious video. This post will be drawing on parts of the video which show that Matt’s experience with diabetes is similar to experiencing depression. The only difference is that Matt’s experience is comically bizarre, but those suffering with depression live in this absurd environment.

Before someone objects that diabetes and depression are too different to compare, read on. They are similar enough to show how strange and frankly stupid the stigma is.

  • Firstly, both are illnesses, both physical.
  • In each case the illness can be caused by genetics and/or environment.
  • Both are hidden illnesses, meaning that you might not know that someone suffers with it just by looking.
  • Depression and diabetes both can be fought by medicine.
  • In both cases, the sufferer must be proactive in fighting back, whether through medicine or other lifestyle choices.
  • Etc…

Please trust me and accept that the stigma exists. This is also something that people struggling with depression have little control over. We need the community’s help. We need people to learn and be educated on the topic. I know that we are a minority, and human beings are experts at dismissing and ignoring the needs of minorities, but please believe me. Stigma exists and it makes our lives a lot more painful that it needs to be.

Although I don’t think this was the intention, this video gives a humorously accurate portrayal of the stigma which makes depression worse than it needs to be. The comedy in this video is successful because it would be absurd for us to imagine treating someone with diabetes like this. But this is exactly what happens with depression. Remember that what Matt the diabetic goes through in the video is exactly what a lot of us go through every day with depression.

Studio C Diabetes

The first thing to note is that his friends want to do what’s best for him. They don’t mean to hurt him, but do anyway because of their ignorance. I know a lot of people who have tried to say things to me to encourage me. They are people who really care about me. One common way that this happens is that people try to share that they have gone through a tough time too (not depression), and how I should be positive because they came through the other side. This is very hurtful because they weren’t listening to me and are trying to solve my problem instead of earnestly listening to me, which is what I need. It also invalidates my suffering and makes me feel more guilty. All of this is done in love, but is very hurtful. This is not a case of “it is the thought that counts!”

The next obvious point is a misunderstanding of the role that medicine plays. Anti-depressants and other medical practices are great for fighting depression. They can be tough because of the hit or miss nature and the side effect, but it is worth trying. Do what the doctor recommends. If you don’t have depression, encourage people with it to get on anti-depressants.

The next comical and sad point is that a lot of people don’t see depression as a real problem. This is something that I struggle with, and I have had it for four years. Is it more acceptable to stay at home with a virus or with depression? At times, depression has been far worse than anything a virus has done to me, but it still feels like having a virus is more acceptable. Telling someone that you have a fever or are throwing up seem to be valid ways to be ill. However, telling someone that you didn’t make work or an appointment because you were ill with depression is not as acceptable.

Having said all this. I have never seen anyone as bad as the guy with the green sweater!

Another common problem highlighted by this video is the unwillingness of his friends to listen to his plight. None of them have experience with diabetes (at least I hope not!) yet they are unwilling to try to understand him. Instead they impose their experience upon him. We need to listen and learn from each other with humility. If someone has depression learn from them, don’t dictate their experience.

This leads on to the problem of trying to quit ‘cold turkey.’ His friends want him to instantly be better. People often say things to people with depression such as ‘you just need to be more positive’ or ‘you need to have a better attitude and you will be fine.’ It is physically impossible (just physically) for our brains to be healed instantly. There will probably be lots of physiological changes in our brain, such as breaking down of pathways, chemical imbalances, and the shrinking of certain parts of our brain. A positive attitude won’t work as an off and on switch for this. We need to properly understand depression to best fight it.

Matt does a cracking job at acknowledging that his friends are trying to help him. This is not easy to do when you have depression and those around are making things worse. He then does a brave thing and calls the doctor despite the peer pressure. This is a tragic part of the analogous sketch. Medical professionals are often woefully unprepared and unskilled. I have had doctors tell me just to spend more time in the sun and I will be fine. I have also have doctors not listen to anything I say and tell me off for wasting their time. Even medical professionals, who are trained in this, struggle with stigma and proper understanding.

Having said that stigma can be fought, I was hopeless when it came to mental health several years ago. I still struggle with it, both perpetuating and suffering because of it. Together we can improve and help each other out. Watch the video again. It is hilarious, but hopefully instructive too.