Most of us know that mental health problems aren't trivial issues and that it's important to get support. But there are still some misconceptions about depression that make living with the condition a lot harder than it might be. Breaking down the facts can help people understand what it's really like to live with depression.
This can help if:
- you want to know more about depression
- you’re experiencing depression
- you feel like no one understands what you’re going through.
1. Depression is more than feeling sad.
Everyone feels sad occasionally about different things – and not just young people. But when we talk about depression, we're talking about something that’s much more serious than just being sad. It's when a person feels a sadness so severe that it interferes with their daily life and causes symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleeping issues, loss of concentration and/or low energy levels. If any of these symptoms last longer than two weeks, there's probably something more serious going on than just feeling sad.
2. Sometimes, talking about depression isn’t enough.
Talking with friends and family is a great way to deal with the day-to- day ups and downs of life. But when it comes to depression, things are a bit more complicated. Depression is an illness that often requires treatment from professionals trained to deal with its causes and symptoms. Talking about how you feel with a trusted friend or family member may help in the short term, but the seriousness of depression shouldn't be ignored. Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists can provide treatments and self-management strategies, which your family can’t do.
3. Depression can affect anyone, at any time.
While it's true that depression can start following a tough period, such as a bad break-up or the loss of a job, it's not always the case. Depression can develop due to other factors, such as genetics or chemical imbalances that occur in the brain, or negative thinking patterns. This is why depression can affect anyone at any time, regardless of what’s going on in their life.
4. Getting help can be really hard.
Depression can make a person feel completely helpless and drain them of the energy they need to ask for help. If you’re worried about a friend or a loved one, you can offer support by encouraging them to speak to a health professional or an adult they trust. If they’re not able to do it on their own, ask for their permission to talk to an adult they trust on their behalf. If they refuse, and you’re still really concerned, consider talking to an adult you trust, such as a teacher, parent or school counsellor.
5. There are many options to treat depression.
Depending on the severity and cause of the depression, different treatment methods may be recommended. For mild to moderate depression, the first choice of treatment should be psychological therapy. But, if your depression is severe, your doctor might prescribe medication to help you manage.
Look for a doctor you feel comfortable with, but keep in mind that it’s quite common to see several doctors before you find one you’re happy with. It's important that you get along with and trust your doctor, so that you can work together on a treatment plan to keep you well.
6. People don’t choose to have depression.
People don't choose to be depressed, in the same way that people don't choose to have cancer. So, telling a person with depression to just ‘get a grip’ is more harmful than helpful. If they could, people with depression would choose to stop feeling that way.
Depression can be treated with the right help from mental health professionals; however, recovery takes time and will involve lots of ups and downs. If you notice someone displaying symptoms of depression, ask them how you can help, encourage them to get support, and remind them that what they're going through is not their fault or their choice.
7. Depression is not a sign of weakness.
The belief that depression is a sign of weakness is a harmful misconception. If you think about it, it doesn't make much logical sense. Depression can affect all different kinds of people, even those who are traditionally considered to be ‘strong’ or who have no obvious reason to be depressed. The connection that’s assumed between weakness and depression makes it difficult for people with this form of illness to get the help they need. That's why it's important to break down the stigma around mental illness and to reinforce the fact that depression and other mental illnesses aren't the result of a lack of willpower. In fact, the opposite is true, as living with and recovering from depression takes a lot of personal strength.