Depression Stigma: What to Know and How You Can Help
Stigma surrounds every mental illness. The stigma varies from illness to illness but it is different for depression from the rest of the mental illnesses out there.
Depression has such a negative aspect to it which makes people dealing with it seem to be unreliable and unattractive.
There is also a self-stigmatization which makes people feel ashamed of themselves and causes them to be secretive about their illness. This is a big barrier in causing the person to seek out treatment for what they are going through.
It is also difficult while being in a relationship and often the stigma can extend to the person’s partner.
Their partner may feel embarrassed about the other person’s illness. You may often find that the person’s partner is always coming up with excuses as to why their partner is acting the way they are or feeling the way they feel.
The self-stigmatization also extends into the work field.
There is a fear that if discovered they are dealing with depression it could affect their career. The fear may be that they will be treated differently by colleagues, be fired, and lessen their chances of advancement in their workplace.
Depression carries so much negativity, usually towards the person suffering from it, that it often comes out in conversations.
This can make it difficult in keeping friendships or in meeting new people. It is human nature to not want to be around such negativity and can cause avoidance by both family and friends.
The negativity can also come out when working with others. If it does come out and the person is not able to or willing to hide it when around others. This can often make people not want to work with or near the person suffering from depression.
This avoidance, in turn, can cause the person to feel even worse. They may start feeling even more worthless than they already feel. This can also add to the feeling of isolation from the outside world.
Not speaking up
One of the avoidances of telling people that you suffer from depression is that it can make the person feel helpless. This leads them to feel unsure about what to do, what to say or how to act around that person.
One of the difficult parts of overcoming the stigma around depression is lack of knowledge and understanding. The more people are educated about depression the more understanding they will have and be able to react properly around those who suffer from it.
One of the big barriers is the difficulty in explaining the pain and suffering the person is going through and feeling. It is difficult to explain why they have such negativity towards things and the suicidal thoughts.
Over the years I have been seeing a family doctor and a psychiatrist I have tried to explain how I am feeling in many different ways. Often using different analogies but still come up short with the proper words to describe exactly what is going on with my feelings and thoughts.
Being that I am clinically depressed and there were no past issues that caused the onset of the depression, It becomes difficult to explain why it’s there.
Often times I find myself saying that I don’t know where certain feelings or thoughts are coming from that they are just there for no reason.
Affecting core beliefs
The depression affects the core of the person and bleeds into their core beliefs, which over time completely changes the person from who they used to be.
This alone can be a very difficult thing to deal with. This only reinforces the negative feelings and thoughts because they have lost their sense of identity.
One of the best ways to help with the stigma surrounding depression, and other mental illnesses, is from people telling and sharing their stores and what they deal with on a day to day basis.
If you have not read any of the posts from my story you can find the beginning story in the post Life With Depression: Onset of the Depression.
Here I have started a series of posts that I will go through and share some of the major parts of my story and battle with severe chronic depression and general anxiety.
I hope to be able to collect other people’s stories to share them on this blog to help create more awareness of depression and just how it affects people.
Another avenue for creating awareness for not only depression but other mental illnesses is through education and discussions in the schooling system.
According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people in the world have depression.
According to Project Helping, 80% of people suffering from mental health issues do not speak up or seek help. Forty million people in the United States suffer from depression.
Some of the common fears people have about speaking out about their depression include:
- Loss of employment.
- Difficulty in getting promoted.
- Losing friends and sometimes family
- Losing their partner.
- Fear of benefits limitations.
The list could go on for the fears people have in speaking up that they suffer from a mental illness.
Choosing not to speak up about their depression
When people choose not to speak up about their depression it can cause issues such as:
- Becoming isolated and avoiding people.
- Not getting treatment which will prolong the effects of the illness in their life.
- It can cause a decrease in their physical health.
- Make it harder to treat the longer it goes on untreated.
I could write an article filled with statistics. This though will have minimal impact on the stigma surrounding depression.
Again, what is really needed is for people to share their stories. People need to not only talk about what they have and are currently going through but also what has and hasn’t helped them through the difficult times.
People also need to be able to get passed the self-stigma and seek proper help. This includes seeing a therapist of speaking with their doctor.
It can be hard to speak up about what’s going on in their lives, how they are feeling. However, this is an important part of the process. If your doctor or therapist doesn’t know fully what’s going on with the person then they cannot properly treat them.
If you have a hard time speaking up verbally, write a letter about how you are feeling and your thoughts. Don’t re-read the letter, just put it in an envelope and when you see your doctor just hand them the envelope to read about what’s going on.
I would love to hear your comments about stigma and what you have experienced, so please leave a comment below. If you would like to share your story on this blog use the contact me page and let me know that you would be willing to share your story.