Being an immigrant, I’ve come to see that depression & mental health are understood very differently, especially comparing the 1st & 3rd world.
I’m originally from a 3rd world country in Africa & I recently moved to Canada. The way we understand depression at home (Zimbabwe) is: ‘I’m going through something terrible, so I feel terrible’, but generally there is hope in the way we view depression because we associate it more with events rather than it being our state of being. The way we see it, once you get past the terrible phase, you’ll be fine & content with life again.
On the other hand in 1st world countries it seems depression is more than just about going through a bad phase but… I’ll call it a ‘core’ defeat. And because depression is a deeper issue here, there is naturally a fear of self harm because of it, in other words if you are too depressed we are afraid you’ll think of ‘ending it all’ (suicide).
Furthermore there is this new focus on mental health in the West, which is odd from a foreign perspective because it seems as if government & other leading organisations & institutions suddenly released people are really sad & aren’t mentally coping in life, hence all the new attention on the subject. Whereas were I’m from your mental health is still very much a private concern & something that should be self-managed.
Also because there aren’t that many publicly reported/ known instances of mental breakdown, chronic depression or suicide, we don’t see these subjects as major issues. Even when you do hear about a certain incident, it’s still just linked to an event, eg: I heard about a man from my childhood neighbourhood who committed suicide & it was concluded that he was depressed because of debt he had acquired over the years which he couldn’t handle anymore. Of course depression is a complex subject because each person who faces depression, handles it differently & it is triggered by different issues, but my focus today is the fact that where I am from, people simplify depression by linking it to events ie: you were in debt, you couldn’t find a way out of it, hence you sank into depression. However here, it seems that depression is a clinical issue something that should be diagnosed, medically treated & generally something you should have a long continuous conversation about & seek counselling for.
Of course mental health is important, people do need to be healthy both in body and mind, but the way we understand mental health, really is world’s apart.