Growing up I knew nothing of depression. I didn’t know anyone who suffered from it, and it manifested in my vocabulary mostly as a describer of sadness: “Oh, I feel so depressed today”, or “God, that’s depressing”. I grew up in a provincial area of Denmark, where mental illness most often is a taboo. Talking openly about your inner feelings wasn’t generally condoned, unless they were feelings of happiness, progress, or success of course. So years later, while living in Canada, when a good university friend of mine told me she had suffered from depression in high school, I reacted with skepticism and little understanding. “What do you mean, you couldn’t get out of bed in the morning?”
Well, what she meant was that a physical, chemical imbalance in her body affected the way her brain sends signals, in turn affecting her feelings. This concept, that mental illness, in this case depression, is just as much a physical condition, took me a long time to understand and accept. Depression is not a choice. It’s not an abstract notion that an individual creates in her or his own mind because they ‘feel sorry for themselves’. It is a condition brought about by a number of varying factors, environmental and biological, that affect the body, just like physical illness. This might sound obvious to some, but in my experience conditions such as stress or depression have not been socially acceptable, or even considered ‘real’ by many people.
I recently met with a friend involved with The Current, and we talked about the films and depression, and she told me she has suffered from anxiety, has had severe depression, and been in an out of psychiatric institutions throughout her life. She has been off medication for a little less than two years now, and considers herself ‘cured’. Throughout her childhood she felt an immense pressure to be an outgoing, happy, talkative, extroverted girl, with no room for sadness and failure. She felt as if everyone around her expected this version of her, and if she couldn’t deliver, she was a failure. Over the years her anxiety grew, and in early adulthood she suffered a deep depression. She described it as the mind being a clouded and dark place you can’t escape. No hope, no future, no reason to get out of bed, no reason for anything at all. She contacted her doctor, and got an appointment for assessment eight months later. One day she found herself in the middle of a suicide attempt, and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, four months prior to her appointment. I can’t help but wonder if she had broken her leg, developed diabetes, or just had the flu – she would have been prioritized differently in the system. She still encounters friends who might remark: “Well, I feel like I want to die sometimes, too”, as if depression is a single fleeting feeling you might encounter during your day, but rationality keeps you from acting upon. Why this social stigma that mental illness, mental pain, is not equal to physical illness and pain, escapes me?
If we go back in history mental illnesses, like ‘madness’, were considered physical ailments and treated as such for over 2000 years. The distinction between illness of the body and illness of the mind, only occurred in the late 1700s, when medical innovation and post-mortem examination could reveal that insanity was not accompanied by the obvious pathological changes found in other diseases. Separate asylums for treating mental disorders moved patients away from regular physicians, and a distinction in both treatment and vocabulary for mental disorders emerged. This distinction remains as a descriptor in society today, although contemporary medicine treats both mental and physical disorder as two sides of the same coin. “The fact is, it is not possible to identify any characteristic features of either the symptomatology or the aetiology of so-called mental illnesses that consistently distinguish them from physical illnesses. Nor do so-called physical illnesses have any characteristics that distinguish them reliably from mental illnesses.” *
Science tells us that the psyche and the physical body are inseparable. They affect each other, and are in fact a part of each other. If we open up to the notion that all types of illness deserve equal attention, if we can find social acceptance of so-called mental disorders, and pull them out of their taboos, sufferers will feel more comfortable coming forward, and we can treat people at earlier stages. We don’t all have the same point of reference in our life. I didn’t understand my girlfriend and the path she’d traveled back in high school, but over time I’ve managed to open up and see things from her perspective. Physical or mental pain – no one should be alone with it.
The Current is a series of cinematic takes on alternative communication of various more or less uncovered subjects from public discourse in 2015. It is our mission to add to the conventional forms of media communication an extra dimension, through creative and artistic means in the world of film. The Current strives to create an undercurrent in the media landscape, offering new angles and a deeper insight into specific news topics and current social themes.
About the Director
Marc is an autodidact director from Copenhagen. His entrance into filmmaking began when he moved to Copenhagen 8 years ago. He slowly began learning his way around the business, moving up the ladders in the professional industry, all while creating his own films in his spare time. The half danish, half english filmmaker has now made several shorts, music videos and commercials.
”The community I grew up in was once nominated the second most boring community in Denmark. There was absolutely nothing to do! So you had to use your imagination to make time pass. I started writing in an early age. It made me escape the realities surrounding me.
In general, I’ve always just loved watching films. I even worked in a local video-rental, so that I could get to see as many films as possible. It was the short escape away from whichever reality you came from, that intrigued me.”
Marc chose the subject Depression for his current film. Marc noticed by talking to people with depressions, that some of the hardest part of having a depression is actually talking about it. In their minds, opening about the subject, would mean that others would see you as a failure. We all want to be these strong, independent citizens, so letting your true feelings known would be too big of a punch to the pride. They’d rather fake a smile, self medicate and pretend that everything’s picture perfect. Marc says: “I though it would be quite interesting to try and portrait some of these feeling that surrounds you, when the black dog’s barking”
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