Why is Mental Illness Viewed as a Weakness?

As humans we are social beings, we live and breathe for one another. We grow up, get married, have children and build relationships with people that we would die for. People that we would fight to the bitter end for.

I happen to work in the field of cancer care. Everyday I see people come in for chemotherapy fighting the battle of their lifetime, some of them on their on their last legs. Some do not even have the strength to walk through the doors,  instead they are pushed in by family members in wheelchairs and walkers. They are supported by not only their family but by their doctors who devote their lives to saving them. They are supported by the clinical and administrative staff who also contribute to their fight.

Why? Because their lives are worth it. We help them fight because every human is worth living. We all are born with a right to live life to the fullest, which unfortunately has turned more into a privilege over the centuries. Still these are people at their weakest moments, some on the verge of death and we as a community fight for them because every extra second of their life is worth it; every moment is invaluable.

We fight because a grandmother has the right to see her grandchild grow one more year, every mother has the right to see their child’s smile one more time, every husband and wife have the right to share another loving embrace. We as society, as a community fight for these people and this right. But why does not ever person at their weakest fall into this category?

Why are people with diseases that cause physical weakness worth saving, worth supporting but people suffering from diseases that causes mental weakness are deemed crazy, hopless, useless and cast away into the shadows and onto the streets. Where does the difference lie?

Some people may say depression is not a disease at all because it cannot be diagnosed in the same way others can. It cannot be seen in blood work or on an MRI. There is no proof of something inside us that is toxic and eating away at our strength and confidence. I assure you there is.

Just because something cannot be seen does not mean it is not there.

People with mental illness are not given the same rights as others who suffer from the myriad of societies “acceptable diseases” that plague our lives. Too many people view it is as a cry for attention or an opportunity for mockery. This is what is happening in our world right now. People are using others pain as a form of entertainment for themselves and it’s disgusting. Weakness from cancer means you are sick and that there’s hope for you to get better. Weakness from depression is stigmatized as incurable, deeming you worthless and a lesser form of human.

So again I ask the question what is the difference between physical and mental weakness? What has shaped our society in such a way to create this discrepancy? In terms of evolution and the theory of survival of the fittest, one may think the physically weak would be weeded out, left to fend for themselves. However something over the course of history has changed that.

That change is empathy and love, but why does it only extend to the physical body and not to the mental spirit. Where did the disconnect happen? The disconnect lies in the silence and invisibility . It is socially acceptable to suffer from a disease that is physically debilitating and not acceptable to suffer from one that is mentally debilitating because physical pain is tangible. It can be seen, it is felt and most importantly it’s talked about.

Depression’s nature is to hide itself under the radar. It is not being talked about. Quite frankly I think it’s being avoided entirely, brushed under the rug and there lies your answer. If mental illness does not “exist” (speaking in societal eyes) then our mental weaknesses are no longer a medical concern that deserves support and care, it is deemed a weakness in yourself, a character flaw, an inability to cope with the problems everyone deals with on a daily basis. I can promise you from first hand experience that is nothing further from the truth.

So I do not think the question we really need to be asking ourselves is why are people with depression viewed as weak? The real question is why is their weakest moments not worth the support and acknowledgement that is given to every other illness?


2 responses to “Why is Mental Illness Viewed as a Weakness?

  1. I’m afraid the mentally ill have never had a proper place in society.. in spite of some attempts, I think the current situation is probably the best because in the past, these illnesses were believed to be either demon possession or soul sickness and none as viewed too well.

    The human race progressed technologically way too fast in comparison to the psycho-emotional evolution which is much slower so we need to continue to break down the taboos and talk about these issues and make others understand that we aren’t weak and aren’t inventing things- that the hidden illness is very real to all of us and that we suffer and hope to improve both our condition and people’s understanding.

    It’s the mission most of us took in the past few years : raising awareness. You have done it, and I have done it, and countless others- including celebrities that people listen to.
    Change is slow, we need to be patient.


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