A depression diagnosis is often seen as something to be kept private, but this candid Instagram post explains why it should be seen as a positive, not a negative.
According to mental health charity Mind, one in four people experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, with one in six people reporting feelings of anxiety and depression in any given week.
The stigma around depression diagnosis is often that it’s shameful, something to be kept secret and shy away from talking about. However, Omisade Burney-Scott doesn’t see it that way. She was diagnosed with depression in 2016, aged 49, and firmly believes that it saved her life.
Sharing her mental health journey as part of the What’s Underneath: Defying Ageism series by Instagram platform StyleLikeU, Burney-Scott admitted that she doesn’t look at her depression diagnosis as a bad thing at all. Instead, she says it was her body trying to save her life, an invitation she accepted.
“When I got my initial diagnosis, it came on the tail end of a really challenging time in my life,” the social justice advocate and creator of The Black Girls’ Guide to Surviving Menopause tells Stylist.
“I was feeling extreme fatigue, melancholy and lost an extreme amount of weight in a short space of time, all while in the last stages of my menopausal journey. I really thought I was physically ill, because I was just fading away.”
After a doctor cleared her of any physical health problems, Burney-Scott was diagnosed with clinical depression. “It was like my body had been trying to tell me what was going on. I was doing a job that required a lot of mental work, so I put the stress and the constant brain fog down to that. But actually, it was my body trying to say: ‘This is more than just sadness’. So when I got the diagnosis, it was like a lightbulb went off.”
But rather than hide her diagnosis, as so many do, Burney-Scott says that she’s always framed having depression as a positive thing, and never a negative.
“I felt it was an invitation to choose myself, to love myself. It allowed me to develop a different, more positive relationship with myself.
“The diagnosis saved my life and gave me the opportunity to see myself as more human. It also deepened my understanding of who I am, which allows me to be more compassionate. As a Black, cis, hetero woman, we navigate a lot of challenges on a day-to-day basis, so having this support around my mental health is what makes me feel safe in places I don’t always feel.”
Burney-Scott says she was inspired to share her story because of the stereotypes surrounding depression. “So much of what we understand of it is based on these ideas, but it can show up in so many different ways: fatigue, sadness, anger, rage.
“It’s not something you can just snap out of. There’s a lot of stigma in the Black community around mental and emotional health, and we’ve not been afforded the space to even interrogate where these issues might come from. They’re entrenched in our functionality through our lived experience in societies and cultures where racism and white supremacy exist.
“Too often, we don’t carve out the space and time we need to take care of ourselves. The way we’re taught to work is to keep going, keep producing, pack down pain because mental health isn’t the most important issue to be addressed.”
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources at mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness or access the NHS list of mental health helplines and organisations here.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.
You can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for confidential support.