Anxiety and Depression Issues Should be Taken Seriously

Radhika Jit

Tongues were wagging when San Francisco Giants’ everyday first baseman Aubrey Huff disappeared during a series versus the New York Mets, leaving manager Bruce Bochy just a text message.

However, when it was revealed his disappearance was due to an anxiety disorder, the reaction was anything but sympathetic.

Fans took to social networking sites and began buzzing about this “made up disorder” that landed Huff on the 15-day disabled list.

What is alarming is how fans and bloggers reacted to his announcement, an all too common occurrence and reaction against illnesses like anxiety.

All too often mental illnesses, whether depression, panic attacks, or obsessive-compulsive disorder are heavily misunderstood in our society, and those who admit to them are often ridiculed over something they cannot control.

Huff was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying, “I couldn’t breathe. I felt I was taking short breaths. Right then and there I thought I was having a heart attack. I told myself, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to be sitting in this hotel room and die of a heart attack. I’ve got to get out of here.’”

Huff stated he doesn’t know where his panic attack came from, like so many who suffer from it, however he said he was scared. As such, it is truly unfortunate the backlash that occurred after his attacks.

For athletes or those in the public eye, the scrutiny is magnified.

The truth of the matter is, anxiety and depression are diseases that are — and should be — taken just as seriously as any physical problem.  

We as a society need to stop putting a stigma on mental illnesses or dismiss it as a “made up” disease.  Open discussions, education and awareness about mental illnesses need to happen more in the media by not scrutinizing them as merely making excuses but as true mental conditions.

This is even more evident with the recent suicide of former NFL star Junior Seau.

According to the Center for Disease Control, one in 10 adults in the U.S. suffers from depression and it is most common in the 45-64 age range, while 18- to 24-year-olds were likely to report having “other depression[s].”

“Depression can adversely affect the course and outcome of common chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity,” according to the Center for Disease Control.  “Depression also can result in increased work absenteeism, short-term disability, and decreased productivity.”

After a series of unfortunate events, my personal life was touched by depression when my father suffered serious anxiety attacks and depression for over a year.

The person that I loved became unrecognizable as he battled the disease, yet we supported him and didn’t ignore his plight.  It was only through therapy, medication and relaxation that he was fortunately able to recover.

The biggest issue with mental illnesses is that they are scary, unpredictable and there is no clear treatment, unlike physical ailments.

Oftentimes people are afraid to admit to having a problem for the fear of being looked at differently. For athletes and public figures like Huff and Seau, constantly being judged and held on a golden pedestal for strength and heroism makes it even harder to not only admit publicly, but recover.

I plea to bloggers, so-called fans and those in the media to respect the burden of families like Huff’s and Seau’s who have to cope with an unfortunate and difficult illness.

We should be better than this and we should know better. Or at least that’s what I had hoped when my father was diagnosed.

We need to acknowledge the severity of diseases like depression and anxiety and not scrutinize and judge people as making excuses or trying to find an easy way out. We should be better than this, and at the very least want to.