Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting Past the Stigma

As a society, we need to start changing the way we think of mental illness. Think of all the things we seek medical attention for: high blood pressure; diabetes; injuries; allergies. When we have problems with our bodies, we go to the doctor. But, when we have concerns about our mood and our mind, why do we shy away from medical treatment? Because we are unsure of how others will perceive us.

In my journey, I've heard many things that were hurtful and uncaring. I doubt that the people who said those things had any idea that what they were saying was more harmful than helpful.

"Are you going to do anything today?"

"You're just depressed. Kick yourself in the butt and get out of it."

"Somebody's crabby today."

Comments like that- although meant to be lighthearted and motivating- can be detrimental to someone who is already wondering why they feel bad. The decision to get help for depression can be a difficult one. We worry what the effects may be on our jobs; our insurance; our friendships. We may think that depression is something that we can get past on our own. But, true, clinical depression is far beyond that.

We need to get better at recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression. Take a look at the list below. (From
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

We take medicine for our allergies; for hypertension; for our cholesterol. We do it to make ourselves healthier. We don't hide it from our families. Why should depression be any different?

And that's how we need to approach it. Depression is a treatable illness. To be healthy, we have to take care of our bodies, as well as our minds. No one should be ashamed of that.

We need to encourage our family, friends, and co-workers who are experiencing depression to seek help. And we need to be supportive of their journey. Don't criticize and nit-pick. Don't offer your two cents. Let them discover their own path to wellness. Ask them how you can help. If you see that they are struggling with everyday tasks, do something. Cook a meal for them. Run errands. If children are involved, offer to babysit while they seek counseling. It may seem small, but it will make a big difference in the life of someone who is affected by depression.

No comments:

Post a Comment