The “broken leg” question

Today, on Doing Defies Depression’s Facebook page, I posted:

Question: Which would you prefer – a broken leg, or an acute episode of depression?

It’s a question which has been floating around for years, but it never hurts to run it past a new community and get their responses.

At the time of writing, that post had reached 698 people and had 25 comments, not counting replies to comments. I told you we had an active and engaged Facebook community!

It didn’t surprise me that 92% of respondents said they’d prefer a broken leg; after all, these people had some experience of depression. Most of the comments in favour of a broken leg cited the sympathy and understanding that those with an injured limb will experience, as opposed to those living with the invisible ‘brokenness’ of an acute depressive episode.

For my money, the response of the day was:

Broken leg. People take you seriously with a broken leg. Why don’t you get out more? Oh sorry, I didn’t see your leg. Why don’t you get a job? Oh sorry, didn’t see your leg. Why are you so emotional? Oh sorry, did you want help with your leg?

although the comment saying “2 broken legs” had me smiling.

Of the two who responded that they’d prefer depression, one person’s reason was that a broken leg would prevent her from walking her beloved dog, and the other that a broken leg would prevent him from earning, which would lead to destitution, depression and homelessness (I’m paraphrasing).

Can my little question tell us much? Here are my thoughts, for what they’re worth:

  1. People who have experienced an acute depressive episode would prefer physical pain over psychological suffering.
  2. People in the Doing Defies Depression community – who are far more likely to be living with depression than the general public – retain a sense of humour! Well done, DDD community!
  3. The belief in stigma and misunderstanding of depression is very strong. This is demonstrated in comments like “At least with a broken leg you get the appropriate help and support you need”, “Easy a broken leg … You don’t get comments like – you’ll get over it – pull your socks up” and “Broken leg. Like others are saying people take a broken leg seriously. There’s sympathy and empathy. Depression so few understand it or even recognise it in others.”
  4. Society in general, and workplaces in particular, have a long way to go until people living with depression feel understood.

There’s nothing earth-shattering in there. (Actually, I did have an original thought, but someone came and talked to me for ten minutes so *poof*! Out of my mind it went.) However, these responses highlight the need for greater education around depressive illness.

Out of interest: which would you opt for?


Filed under Living Well With Depression

8 responses to “The “broken leg” question

  1. A broken leg. It takes longer to heal.
    Although I’m not surprised at your responses at all. I think having a visible ailment is much easier to explain to others.


  2. That was meant to say that a broken leg doesn’t take as long to heal. Seriously brain dead right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rod

    Diagnosis of a broken leg is easy and unlikely to be wrong. Treatments for a broken leg are well known and have a very high success rate.
    Diagnosis of a mental health problem is difficult and treatments, compared to those for broken legs, often ineffective even where they exist.


  4. Right now I’d take four broken limbs over this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Definitely a broken leg. Even now that I’m feeling better, if I had to break my leg but know I would never feel that pain again, I’d do it in a heart beat. And yes, people would finally empathize and not be so afraid of me and what they don’t know but don’t care to ask.


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