I want to share with you some misconceptions about depression that I often come across. These can be things I hear from people, see on the television, hear in song lyrics or see portrayed by the media. They can be very offensive to anyone who suffers with depression and harmful to helping them heal.
The more that people understand the less stigma people with depression face and the more people can support their loved ones who suffer. It's easy to be judgemental as you really can't understand how it feels or affects a person unless you experience it. So here are my top ten offenders...
- "I've never met anyone with depression."- the chances are you have because 1 in 4 people will experience it each year. Not everyone greets you with "hi I'm Tom, I have depression" and people don't tend to wear t-shirts with "I'm depressed" printed on them. It's also very hard to hear this if you are depressed and feeling very alone. It's almost as if they are justifying your thoughts of "I'm the only one." Depression is very common.
- "Trauma causes depression."- it can but not always. It can be a chemical imbalance, come from another illness, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, medications, drug abuse and so much more. Trauma may cause another type of mental illness or no mental illness at all.
- "They're not a very strong person."- you need a huge amount of mental strength to live with and get through depression. Often depressed people have had to be strong for a very long time.
- "Depressed people feel sad and emotional."- for me it is feeling numb and void of emotion, everyone is different and you need to understand that depression affects everyone differently.
- "It's not a physical illness."- depression is classed as a mental illness but it can feel very physical and has side effects that are uncomfortable, painful and irritating.
- "You don't look/act depressed."- depression is yet to have it's own fashion! There is no look or action that relates to depression. People can put on a front or hide how they feel and what they are thinking. They may have avoided you in their darkest times so you haven't actually seen them depressed.
- "It's all for attention."- ARGH!!! It is a mental illness and not a choice. For a lot of depressed people they prefer to be alone or avoid physical contact, eye contact or company during their darkest times so it is definitely not for attention. Cries for attention may happen because that person needs help and support not because they want the attention.
- "Depressed people are suicidal."- depression does not mean you are suicidal or a self harmer. Some people will have suicidal thoughts but not act upon them. Depression does put people at a higher risk of becoming suicidal but there are other mental illnesses that can lead to suicide attempts too. If you think someone or yourself is suicidal seek help immediately through a crisis team, help line or your doctor.
- "You're being selfish."- one of the most hurtful comments you could say to someone with depression. They have no choice in the matter and often can't control their thoughts, words and actions when depression takes over.
- "Men are mentally stronger than women, only weak men get depressed, women are emotional anyway."- NO! Men and women who have depression or a mental illness are not weak. Mental illnesses and depression do not dictate the strength of someone's character or their ability to live with it. Depression does not discriminate it can affect anyone. You can't be too manly to become depressed and you can't be too weak or emotional for depression to be a normal state of mind. Treat people as individuals.
Are there any comments you have heard that you feel need some light shed on them?