By: Marina Alex and Juvana Enchackal
Walking down the halls of high school, it is almost impossible to keep track of the amount of times students throw around comments like “I failed this test. I’m so depressed” or “I hate my life. Kill me.” Although these remarks may seem harmless, their presence in various conversations results in a lack of division between sadness, and actual depression, leading to a wave of detrimental effects within society.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Looking back at that hallway scenario, it is not a surprise to many people, especially younger adolescents who bear witness to the impacts of depression in their daily lives. However, despite how common the topic of depression is, many people are still confused about it.
Depression nowadays is often confused with sadness, a comparison that undermines the seriousness of depression and makes it so only 35% of depressed people seek the professional help they need. On one hand, sadness is an emotion that every human feels, while depression is a dangerous medical condition with no single simple solution. Many people forget that depression is not “all in your head”, as scientists have linked it to brain chemistry and function, like any other illness.
To combat this stigma of depression being as simple as sadness, we must understand how it affects different individuals. Depression expresses itself through changes that vary from person to person. Symptoms include oversleeping, not getting enough sleep, mood swings, anger, diet changes, and fatigue. By acknowledging that everyone’s fight against depression varies one another, we have already taken one step towards improving our society for those who feel like they are alone.
Depression plants a seed of hopelessness and despair in the mind; one of the most dangerous emotions if not treated properly. Regardless of status or wealth, this serious illness affects people from all walks of life. Depression isn’t a choice people make, and it is certainly not like it’s a switch people can turn on and off. Take for example the Hollywood legend, Robin Williams, a voice actor and comedian that brought joy to thousands of audiences. Despite his cheery demeanor across television, Williams suffered from Lewy body dementia, which contributed to his depression. This is a clear indication that the happiest people are actually the saddest in reality. Depression not only takes on different forms, but also affects different types of people, and it is time we recognize and accept that.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma around depression in many cultures, notably the South Asian community. The idea is that a person who suffers from depression has a weak personality, and according to PubMed.org, “only 58.9% believed in the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy for depression. [Only] 70% understood the necessity of rest and knew that depression is possible in those who act brighter”. These percentages reveal just how prevalent the stigma is within South Asian communities, and is not completely accepted in mainstream media as an actual issue. Many believe depression is a product of hysteria or an overactive imagination. Regardless of cultural background, the stigma around mental illness should be eliminated. Acknowledging it and receiving support and help is one of the best ways to help a loved one with their depression. It’s so important to receive help so that we can normalize depression and make it a discussion people should talk about openly to effectively solve the problem, rather than avoid it. There are many ways to cope with depression and get back on track to be their best self.
Talking to a therapist can help a person relieve stress. Therapists can suggest ways to improve self esteem, help adopt a positive mindset, and practice stress management.
Writing in a journal can help to alleviate stress and be open about thoughts. Even writing a few minutes a day can make a person feel so much better.
Having a regular diet and exercising can change a person’s mindset and make them feel good about themselves!
Talking to friends can be refreshing and lift your mood.
The stigma around depression needs to perish because there are so many ways to fight the battle against depression. Seeking help isn’t a characteristic of the weak, but of the strong because they are trying to fight the battle and overcome! Please continue to learn and listen to further understand those around you to be able to assist them to truly be happy. Too many of our generation have suffered, so it’s time for us to not just walk down those hallways listening to negative comments about depression. Instead, reach out, communicate, and educate others. If anyone is depressed or someone you love has depression please seek help.
National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264)
Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
National Institute of Mental Health 1-866-615-6464