How To Break Down The Stigmas Surrounding Depression
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

How To Break Down The Stigmas Surrounding Depression

Support your loved ones battling mental illness by battling the stereotypes that weigh them down.

84
How To Break Down The Stigmas Surrounding Depression
LindasLife548

According to WHO, the World Health Organization, 350 million people around the world are battling depression. More than likely, someone you care about has been diagnosed with depression and that means you have a choice to make. Are you going to support them by disabling the stigmas facing mental illness, or are you going to minimize the importance of their mental health by perpetuating stereotypes? Debilitating stereotypes have plagued those who deal with mental illness for hundreds of years, and while society's view of mental health is finally starting to change for the better, there are still so many people who don't understand the impact of their words have on someone who is trying their hardest to get better. Perpetuating these hurtful stereotypes not only perpetuates an ignorant mentality, but have a direct effect on the people around you. You never know who is suffering from a disease you can't see, which bring me to the first stigma we're going to address:

1. "Depression isn't a real disease."

I'm going to stop you right there. Yes. Yes, it is. Just like your lungs and your heart, your brain is an organ that can get sick and not function the way it's supposed to. Mental illness is nothing more than any other very treatable disease, but the way it is viewed in society is not always like that. Would you ever tell someone with cancer to 'just get over it' or that they're 'just not trying hard enough'? I didn't think so. The image above is a scan of two brains. One is depressed, the other is not. You can actually see how depression affects the brain.

Depression has major effects on three parts of the brain: the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. The prefrontal cortex is the very front of your brain and is responsible for regulating emotions, making decisions, and forming memories. The prefrontal cortex has a tendency to shrink when exposed to too much cortisol, which brings us to the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that stores memories and regulate a hormone called cortisol, which is produced in times of stress. Over-production of this hormone can not only cause the prefrontal cortex to shrink, but can start to cause memory loss. Finally, the amygdala is the part of the brain that facilitates emotional responses such as happiness and fear, but overexposure to cortisol can cause it to become enlarged, disrupting sleep patterns and causing abnormal production of other hormones in the body. In short, depression is just as much a medical as heart disease or any other ailment, and needs proper treatment.

2. The same medication will work for everyone with depression.

"It worked for my friend, so why wouldn't it work for you?"

One of the key concepts to understand when learning about depression is that there are dozens of different kinds of treatment for it and they don't all work for everybody. Treatment for depression can range from anywhere between prescription medication and different forms of therapy. The kind of treatment someone uses does not mean anything negative or positive about their character or who they are as a human being; it just means that's what they need to get better. While sometimes only one form of treatment, more commonly it's a combination of treatments that will be most beneficial to the individual. The most important thing to remember is that every person is unique, and therefore, the help they receive will be unique.

3. Depression is a sign of weakness.

"It's all in your head, just get over it already."

This is probably one of the most infuriating stereotypes I've heard, so I'm going to put this bluntly: BEING DEPRESSED DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE WEAK. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW.

Depression is a mental illness that not only causes a constant feeling of sadness or hopelessness, but can cause you to lose all interest in doing things you once had a passion for. It makes you fatigued, so tired that the thought of getting up to make yourself a sandwich or just going to the grocery store feels like climbing Mount Everest. It messes with your sleep patterns and your eating habits, and this is all happening while you feel worthless and burdensome. Anyone who can deal with all of that, medication or no medication, is one of the strongest people you are ever going to meet because the daily tasks you find trivial can be insurmountable to them. But you will rarely see that because people fighting depression spend most of their time trying to pretend that they are okay.

4. Happy people can't be depressed.


"I had no idea... he was always smiling... I never expected he would..."

A smile does not necessarily equate to 'happy.' It could absolutely mean momentary happiness, but not "content-with-life, everything-is-sunshine-and-rainbows" happiness. More often than not, people with depression will hide their pain so as not to bum out their friends or be a burden to anyone. This comes from a feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness that will make the individual try to hide their inner turmoil out of fear of being a nuisance and a (usually inaccurate) mentality that no one really cares about them. Take the time to really talk to your loved ones about how they are and make sure they know just how important to you they are, and that you are there for them. Make your love apparent, because to someone suffering from depression, it isn't always obvious. Making it so can make a life-saving difference.

5. Talking about depression has to be, well, depressing.

"Isn't this kind of a downer to be talking about over dinner?"

Because of the stigma surrounding depression, many people affected by it do not want to open up about it to friends or family because they fear social isolation. This is rooted in the words 'crazy' and 'weird,' and how people use these words so casually when talking about mental illnesses. The main fear is that they will be isolated by their peers if they open up about their depression. People battling depression may even choose not to open up to a doctor or their employer about it for fear of being judged or fired. But it doesn't have to be this way! By beginning to talk about depression without complaining that it's a sad topic or feeling awkward you can not only learn more about someone and their struggle, but you can help them learn to open up to others about their depression! The best way to start a conversation about depression is to let them know that you are there for them no matter what and that they can trust you if they still don't want to talk, don't force them to. Just making yourself available and letting them know you care is sometimes all you need to do to make a difference.

6. Self- Stigma

"I feel like I bother people just by being alive."

"No one actually wants me here, I'm just a nuisance"

"They don't really care about how I feel."

Self-stigma is one of the most damaging stigmas people with depression have to fight. This is because self-stigma lives in their mind, which means it's pretty much impossible to escape from. It's the feeling of worthlessness combined with the negative phrases that surround depression (and other mental illnesses), becoming internalized from repetition throughout a person's life, whether it's directed at them or not. Essentially, it's when society says things over and over so much that you start to really believe it. This kind of negativity can have one of two effects on a person. It will either get them fired up and angry, causing them to want to fight against these prejudices by disproving them, or it will have debilitating effects on their self-esteem, making it ultimately harder for them to feel valued and want to get better. Of the two, obviously the first is the one to hope for -- as spite can be a powerful motivator -- but there is no guarantee how a person will react. In reality, instead of hoping that perpetuating stereotypes will make someone angry and want to prove them wrong, we just shouldn't use them. These stigmas are damaging enough to someone's recovery process without them starting to believe it themselves.

As human beings, it is our job to support and care for one another. You can choose to perpetuate stereotypes and hurt the people around you, or you can choose compassion and work to break down these terrible stigmas. If nothing else, I hope this article will inspire you to show someone that you love them and that they matter. Don't just tell someone you love them; show them by being there for them, hug them, let them know that their presence makes a difference to you. You might just save a life.

National Suicide Prevention Line: Available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Crisis Text Line: Free 24/7 support for anyone in need; just text START to 741741.

The Trevor Project: 24/7 confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth at 1-866-488-7386.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Olivia White

"The American flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies from the last breath of each solider who died protecting it."

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Separation Anxiety in Pets

Separation anxiety in pets is a real thing and recognizing the warning signs is important.

165431

Since March, Covid-19 required most of the world to quarantine in their homes. Majority of people ended up working from home for nearly five months. This meant pet owners were constantly with their pets giving them attention, playing with them, letting them out etc. Therefore, when the world slowly started to open up again and pet owners began returning to normal life work schedules away from the home, pet owners noticed a difference in the way their pet acted. Many pets develop separation anxiety especially during this crazy time when majority people were stuck inside barely leaving the house.

Keep Reading... Show less
Robert Bye on Unsplash

I live by New York City and I am so excited for all of the summer adventures.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

The invention of photography

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

346194

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers

1751517

Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

1108328
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series

988362
Netflix

Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

650049
Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments