Depression and support within the anime community

Depression is a mental illness that can affect anyone.  It is not limited to only one type of person, unfortunately there often seems to be a stereotype that those who dress alternatively such as the anime community, are more prone to be depressed however with more people opening up and discussing their feelings of depression this could be set to change.

A common definition of depression online ‘Severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy’.  This reiterates the strengths that the anime community has much to offer an individual through support such as friendship, strength and by sharing a common interest people can approach new people without worrying about what to talk about. Members of the community can support through simple things such as complimenting a cosplay or a personal performance e.g. dance, blog, singing. This simple gesture boosts confidence. Even just by cosplaying in the safe environment of a convention or meet can provide escapism from a difficult situation.

Today I am interviewing cosplayer, dancer and con-goer Steph about her past with depression and self-harm. Steph, tells her story about how the anime community has supported her on the road to recovery.

steph blog image 1How long have you suffered from depression? Could you please give me a bit of background about your history with depression?

I have had depression since the age of 13, so have suffered with depression for 6 nearly 7 years. It was triggered by something that happened in my childhood and my parents splitting up and arguing, I have self-harmed before as it is my way of coping with mental pain I turn it into physical pain instead.

I knew I needed help after my 4th hospitalisation. I left it late because I always shrugged it off and said I would be fine or my family would make sure I go to see someone to help me but after a few sessions with a therapist they would classify me as okay until next time, but after the 4th time I finally realised that I couldn’t shrug it off any longer and I had to get help as soon as possible.

My depression doesn’t affect me or who I am, it does make me react differently to situations, I still consider myself as a small hyperactive person and my depression doesn’t affect how people see me as a lot of people have told me that they would’ve never have guessed that I suffer with depression, so I’m still who I am.

When did you first discover anime and your passion for it? What steph blog image 3was your first convention experience?

I had a passion for anime since I was a young kid, anime was like my reality away from everything going on in my life, I felt like for some reason the anime understood me better than my own friends and family, I also learnt that a lot of my friends liked anime as well so it made me feel like I wasn’t so odd and peculiar for liking it. My first convention was ALCon September 2012 and I went with my friend Charlie, the reason we went was because we were supposed to be going to get tattoo’s done together but our tattooist never showed up so we had the money and whilst sitting in Leicester town centre we noticed cosplayers walking around town and it clicked onto me that it was ALCon so I asked Charlie if she wanted to go, so we did make shift cosplays and then went on the Sunday. I had a great time, I got to meet tonnes of people and make great new friends and experience what it is like in a convention.

What has helped you recover?

The thing with depression you never really ‘recover’ you just think you have but really it will just take time and you’ll have another relapse in your depression. So in my opinion I’m not recovered I still go see and a psych and I take anti-depressants as well, but what helps me most of all is talking about it I have an issue with how I will phrase it into words but the one person who understands me even when I don’t even know what is wrong is my boyfriend he helps make me smile and cheer me up when I need it.

How has the anime community supported you through your depression?

The anime community makes me be a different person through cosplaying, not many people know I suffer with depression and it’s great just to be accepted for who you are and they don’t know your past or your future, I’ve met a lot of people in the anime community who are now my close friends and even my boyfriend and I know if I ever have an issue I can talk to them about it.

What support do you get through the anime community that you steph blog image 2don’t through other people?

You get the support of people understanding what you mean, like for me explaining my feelings I sometimes relate to anime, people who are not in the anime community  won’t understand how I feel or what I am trying to say.

There are many who have found the anime community very supportive and have formed close friendships, why do you think this is?

People in the anime community are close because they share the same interest, be it anime, manga, gaming, cosplaying and all things like that, I have my friends within the anime community and my friends outside the community, the friends outside the community classify the ones inside as ‘weird’ because of what hobbies we like and do, but within the community we’re like a huge family and we stand by each other when we need to.

Many stereotype our anime community, alongside ‘emos’ and ‘goths’ with this illness? Why do think this is and how do you feel about this misconception?

I don’t know why it is, in my opinion it’s because people outside the community doesn’t understand why we like what we like, it doesn’t bother me about the misconception as people will probably call me weird and in my opinion sanity and normality are a perception of the mind so I know I am ‘weird’

You are also a cosplayer, most recognised for Pikachu, Haruhi and Sailor Mars. Why do you cosplay?

I cosplay because it helps me feel like someone else and gives me the confidence to do things I probably won’t do normally dressed. Expect more cosplays to come in the future as well ^_~

In recent years, studies have shown that regular physical activity chibialso has benefits for mental health. Exercise can help people recover from depression and can even prevent them from becoming depressed in the first place as it produces endorphins. Steph, you are part of dancing duo ChibiKyousha, how do you feel when you dance? Has it helped you?

To be fair, I’ve always loved performing as it gives me the same buzz as cosplaying does, ChibiKyousha helps me feel like I’m contributing to the anime community, how do I feel when I dance? This is a tough question to answer as different routines I feel different about, but in general I always feel happy when dancing, medical experts may be correct but it only helps because you are replacing the urge to self-harm or such by dancing or doing exercise but at times it can be lead to future self-harming like if you’re doing a lot of dancing and losing a lot of weight.

Has the anime community been supportive of ChibiKyousha?

The anime community has been so supportive towards ChibiKyousha, since we started just 3 months ago we have around 25 subscribers on YouTube as well and both me and the other member of ChibiKyousha are even choreographing our own routine to anime music to help get awareness in the anime community, it’s good because both members of ChibiKyousha are diagnosed with depression, but when/if you watch us perform you will never realise that we actually do, ChibiKyousha is our little safe haven as it is known in the English term as ‘Small Insanity’. I think it sums us up really well.

What advice would you give to others feeling depressed?steph blog image 4

Don’t give up! Please, the anime community, including me, will never want someone to give up, you may feel depressed but we’re here with our arms wide open willing to greet you and hug you and tell you it’s all okay, even if it’s not we will help to our best ability.

Thanks Steph for sharing your experience! Readers you can follow and keep up to date with ChibiKyousha latest news and events via http://www.youtube.com/user/ChibiKyousha?feature=c4-feed or like the FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/ChibiKyousha?fref=ts

If you have experienced similar feelings to Steph remember you are not alone and there are people to talk speak to; a family member, close friend or your GP. There are also great charities such as Mind who are here to help and listen call 0300 123 3393

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