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Why We Need to Talk About Andrew Tate’s Toxic Tweets About Depression

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I am fortunate enough that my Twitter timeline is full of inspiring, positive, pro-recovery people. As such, I usually manage to avoid toxic accounts, that usually belong to someone with no experience with mental health issues and no training to treat those who are struggling with mental illness; who claim that very real conditions like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are no more than fancy words to mask laziness, weakness or excessive sensitivity. Over the past few days, however, I have seen many of the people I follow reacting to this type of content. I don’t tend to give much thought to that kind of negativity. I prefer to advocate positivity and recovery than to reply to those who don’t believe in it, especially when there are so many of them. This time, however, I am genuinely worried.

The person who stirred such a commotion in my timeline was Andrew Tate, a British kickboxing world champion who, until he got extensively called out on it, claimed he was an expert on depression, with no proven qualifications, mainly because his 25 thousand followers don’t ask for them nor do they need them to believe everything Andrew has to say. And he has a lot to say.

He claims depression isn’t real (all the while assuring he can “cure it” for some large amount of money) and that depressed people are “lazy attention seekers.” When his opinion is debated, he often goes on to body shame whoever has an opposing opinion to his. So far, a Twitter troll, but a Twitter troll who can potentially influence over 20 thousand people (mainly young men) who blindly believe in him because of his achievements as a kick boxer.

This makes me worried because Tate often advertises (and brags about) the kind of lifestyle that relies on extreme masculinity: ripped bodies, financial success and a pretty woman by his side. This is a lifestyle that young men often tend to be drawn to because it is what our society believes men should strive to.

This makes me worried because the leading cause of death amongst young men continues to be suicide; they may have fears of appearing weak or unmanly, leading men to be less likely to seek treatment than women.

This makes me worried because homosexual and bisexual men (to whom toxic masculinity can be especially harmful) are more likely to struggle with mental health issues and to try to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Almost half of the transgender population tries to take their life at least once in their lifetime.

The latest statistics tell us that roughly 350 million people worldwide struggle with depression. We urgently need to have a conversation going.

Contrary to some popular belief, depression isn’t a newly diagnosed illness — not in the slightest. Some four hundred years before Christ, the Greek physician Hippocrates already described a condition known then as “melancholia,” its symptoms being essentially the same as those we nowadays diagnose as major depressive disorder or clinical depression. Depression is also a Biblical illness, in the sense that its symptoms are described in detail through Biblical characters as well-known as David, Elijah, Moses or Job. The condition was already talked about under the name of depression in the 17th and 18th centuries by English authors Richard Baker and Samuel Johnson, and discussed for the first time in the field of psychiatry in 1856 by the French psychiatrist Louis Delasiauve.

Celebrated figures of our past such as Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh and Anne Frank struggled with it. Therefore, I believe neither laziness or a negative approach to life has anything to do with it. Depression just feels like one of the great tragedies of our time — the greatest tragedy of it being the shame and the silence around it.

I have a chronic illness. I also happen to have gone through two cycles of major depressive disorder. As such, I have been witness to how differently physical and mental conditions are perceived, and therefore treated.

When I’m flaring up, too unwell and in too much pain to do much, people don’t usually raise a brow. They’d be understanding — suggesting I rest and take care of myself. When I’m showing symptoms of my chronic illness, I don’t hear accusations of laziness very often — if at all. When I was going through depression? Well, that was different. For once, having visible symptoms (such as weight loss or weight gain, for example, or even signs of having been crying) was accompanied by a distinct sense of embarrassment; embarrassment fueled by the reactions of people who couldn’t hide their feelings of seeing me in such a state. Then the word “lazy” was thrown at me with such ease, and more often than not, I didn’t hear people suggesting me to “take care of myself” or “rest.”

Once, as I was buying the medication I had been prescribed by my psychiatrist, my chemist had the nerve to tell me that she hoped I’d grow out of it and that I should try eating more bananas and dark chocolate instead, or maybe I’d want to try some natural remedies as well? I was appalled. I was 19, as bit as a health freak as I am now, and had fought hard against my psychiatrist until he told me, plain and simple, that depression is a medical condition and, as such, I deserved to be prescribed medication. I couldn’t believe that a chemist, of all people, would be shaming me for being on antidepressants, or that she would refer to them as some “fancy drug” I’d regret taking in some not too distant future.

I am passionate about taking care of my body (and this, let us not forget, includes taking care of my mental health as well). I am an avid figure skater. I work. I study. I am no different from the far too many people I’ve known and loved who have battled depression or faced suicidal thoughts. Far from being lazy or negative, some of the most intelligent, creative, kind and thoughtful people I know have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. Far too many people I know have tried to take their own lives, sometimes several times, and the shame attached to it has made that a secret only revealed to the people closest to them.

Those of us who struggle or have struggled in the past with our mental health have to battle the constant stigma. We have to prove we are not the things thrown at us, so much so that it comes as no shock that those diagnosed with clinical depression are often Type A personalities: driven, perfectionist workaholics who dread seeming weak or lazy. And let me be vulnerable for a moment: this hurts. This can potentially worsen a condition’s outlook. This can potentially be the last straw that leads someone to committing suicide.

We need to have a conversation going about suicide. We need to be aware that toxic comments from people who are uneducated on the matter are very much capable of killing. We need to keep advocating for recovery, for treatment, for visibility. We need to keep telling those who struggle with depression that they are valid, that their pain is valid and that help is available.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Lead image via Facebook 

Originally published: October 3, 2017
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