A Game of Taboo

Taboo. Forbidden. Off-limits. Unspeakable.

To us and many others, Taboo is just a fun party game, eliciting memories of childhood. The game itself is played by forming teams and having a person draw a card that contains a word that must be explained and guessed by the others on his team, all the while avoiding the use of a specific five words. The taboo words. If these words are spoken, a person from the opposite team hits the buzzer, and play proceeds to the other team.

For those suffering with mental illnesses, Taboo is much more than a game, it becomes their life. As soon as it is mentioned that the day that he took off from work, or the day she stayed home from school was due to a mental illness such as depression, rather than a more accepted illness, like the common cold, a person has spoken the taboo word, and is then associated with a certain set of stereotypes and is stigmatized. Rather than helping and showing sympathy, as society would do to someone who had the cold, or the flu, society tends to shuns or even look down at those who grapple for help with their mental illness. Because of this stigma, many people are unable to seek treatment and are unable to heal from their ailment. Rather than being able to speak openly about their condition, those who are victims of stigma deny their illness to everybody around them and even end up in denial themselves. It becomes taboo to say openly, and even becomes taboo within oneself, because admitting that there is a problem to oneself means succumbing and “being weak or damaged” (Abrams).

Allison Abrams, a topic expert contributor on depression from an association that advocates ethical therapy called Good Therapy, even refers to depression as “the last taboo”, the last major societal prohibition. The irony exists in the fact that, by the year 2020, the Center for Disease Control estimates depression to be the second most common health problem in the world (Abrams). Abrams suggests that media be used as a tool to combat this taboo against depression and mental illness at large. Media often tends to set the norm for a society, and if this powerful tool is used to create widespread support for those suffering from depression and other currently stigmatized mental illnesses, then society would be taking a step in the right direction towards destigmatizing mental illness and allowing those who are suffering to get the help they need.


Abrams, Allison. “The Last Taboo: Breaking Down the Stigma of Depression.” Good Therapy. Good Therapy, 21 Aug 2013. Web. 28 Mar 2014.

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