Last weekend I visited the holocaust memorial in Berlin and the memorial for the ‘forced sterilisation of people with mental health issues’ … a law that was only formally abolished in 2007. I find it staggering to consider this happened such a relatively short time ago. The Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a field of 2,700 concrete slabs near the Brandenburg Gate. Each one represents a unique shape and size – from any direction. There are no plaques, inscriptions or symbols along the way. The memorial is interesting and has attracted conflicting opinions since it was first unveiled. It is abstract, but also allows for much thought and, in my opinion, reflects the individuality of those it represents.
Reflecting upon my visit to the memorial of 6 million Jewish people who were exterminated during the middle of last century, I find it difficult not to think about the current crisis we see in our world. Every day in the media, we view disturbing images of those fleeing their homeland in an attempt to find a better, safer life for themselves and their families. I can’t help but ask myself the question, “As human beings have we evolved or devolved?” It seems unreal to me that we continue to observe such extreme violations of humankind.
It could have been me
What I found just as disturbing is the memorial to 200 thousand people who were forcibly sterilised as a result of having some form of mental illness … like depression. The harsh reality of how mental health was viewed and the consequences of such a diagnosis are frightening. In very recent history, how I would have been viewed and treated would be very different. So maybe we have come a long way or maybe this is why some people still find it so hard to move away from the stigma of a diagnosis. Perhaps the history isn’t historic enough for people to feel safe to admit their depression or other mental health illness.
It’s almost impossible to imagine how it would have been for people like you and me when we hear about the atrocities that took place. Knowing that we can’t change the past, but that we must choose to learn from it, my hope is that we can break down any remaining stigma about mental health issues, including depression, and that together we can make sure nobody is ever subjected to such barbarism and judgement again.
With love, peace, light and hope,
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