Did I work too hard on this project? I shouldn’t have put this much effort into this. Stop being such an overachiever!
Just stay quiet, it’s not like anyone is listening to you anyways. I mean, do you really think they care?
Alright, I’ll just go in here and pay this bill. I’ll be right out into the car. No one will be looking at me. Right? Right?
I don’t feel like getting up today. No one will miss me.
I missed the test today! Oh no, what if they won’t let me retake it? I knew I should have gotten up today. Oh no.
Look at yourself, do you really think you’re worth all the trouble you make?
I’m going to go through self-checkout. No one has to talk to me. I don’t have to stutter over my words. It’s a win-win for everyone.
One of the saddest things in the world is to feel broken, and although you’ve somehow been figuratively ripped apart, you feel like can never be put back together again.There are days when I ask myself, What are you staying here for? Most times I don’t even have an answer. Sometimes I just don’t want to be here anymore, and those are the toughest thoughts to deal with. But the days that I truly cherish are the ones where I’m so overwhelmed with happiness that it feels like I can beat this depression. That happiness comes from friends and the jokes we share with one another, it comes from family members and their unconditional love for me. I love when friends and family are able to penetrate the barrier of lies and insecurities that depression creates, allowing me to feel love. Those are the days that make life worth living, and those are the days that keep me fighting. The extremes of depression are the worst. One minute you could be on cloud nine and in the next you can feel like you’ve hit rock bottom.
Depression is like a sinkhole. One minute you’re standing on firm ground, and the next minute you’re falling into a pit of darkness. Depression is crying over something simple, like dropping a glass on the ground and breaking it, but not crying when something drastic happens, such as a family member passes away.
Anxiety is worrying too much about things we have no control over. Anxiety is like a river. It never stops flowing. Sometimes, anxiety skyrockets and we end up feeling too much, but it can also dry out. Then we don’t feel like constantly worrying, moving or being busy. A river never stays dry for too long — it always becomes alive with water once again. Also, a river will erode away at the walls encasing it, just as anxiety will eat us alive.
Depression and anxiety together is like staying in bed and skipping school because you don’t want to deal with anybody else. Then, worrying for the rest of the day because you don’t want to fail. Having both is like wanting to go out and hang out with your friends, but then talking yourself out of the plans because you don’t want to have to make the effort.
The ignorance about mental health issues that continues to exist among otherwise intelligent individuals is perplexing. In today’s modern world, with continuously increasing tolerance for human differences, many of yesterday’s taboos have become today’s facts of life. Issues from racism to sexual identity have been stridently tackled and, while much work remains to be done, we have come miles. The recent Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage is a perfect example of how far we have come.
However, there still remains what some have referred to as “the last taboo.” Namely, depression continues to be one of the most stigmatized mental health issues out there. This is ironic, given that by the year 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is estimated to be the second most common health problem in the world. Further, because of the unjustified stigma that still exists, a large percentage of those who experience depression will not be treated.
So, what is the missing piece to this puzzle? Why is the message not resonating with the greater population? Why is stigma still so prevalent in our society? As mental health practitioners and social advocates, what can we do to eradicate this social dilemma?
When it comes to obtaining treatment for medical ailments as benign as the common cold, people don’t think twice about running to the doctor, or the acupuncturist, and spending the money on treatments to feel better. So, why do so many who suffer from depression continue to hesitate, despite all of the treatment options available?
In addition to the externalized stigma or discrimination towards those with mental health issues that exists in society, there comes internalized stigma, or self shame. This makes the experience of mental health issues all the more devastating. Many times, it is the internalized shame that stops people from acknowledging psychological problems and receiving treatment, since many see it as akin to admitting that they are weak or damaged in some way.
But where do we start?
How about with the media? Instead of programs like Criminal Minds perpetuating the stereotype of schizophrenia as a violent disease, let’s have some intelligent programming that humanizes mental health issues. What Will and Grace did for sexual identity, perhaps the same can be done for depression. Since we are a society so attached to the media, why not take advantage of the opportunity to educate people?
We can also begin in our school system, making mental health education a part of the curriculum. As has been discovered in other areas such as sex education, knowledge can be a powerful tool in prevention. Why is it that when we learned about Abraham Lincoln in social studies, or Walt Whitman in literature class, we learned almost everything about them except the fact that they experienced psychological problems? Why were these facts omitted from the textbooks and class lectures? We need to make stigma a thing of the past and teach our future leaders of tomorrow that it is okay to recognize, and seek treatment for, the experience of clinical depression and other mental conditions.
Before we begin with the masses, let us also first look at ourselves as therapists and mental health caregivers. We must look at our own core beliefs and biases, which can directly affect the work we do. We may be unknowingly perpetuating the stigma of depression and other psychological issues. Change must begin within the mental health community. To change others’ minds, we must first change our own.