Depression is a mental illness that it seems almost everybody has heard of, and yet it remains very seldom understood. What seems to be signs of depression may be very obvious in some and yet they are hardly noticeable in others. Often people who come in contact with or are close to people experiencing depression do not know how to aid the person suffering. Depression is extremely difficult for the person experiencing first hand it as well as the person experiencing it second hand.
But if depression is left without being discussed or unattended to, it can prove permanently damaging and even fatal to those experiencing it.
People experience depression for a number of different reasons. Some may experience feelings of depression because of a major event that is perceived as life changing such as not getting into a desired college, loss of a job, going through divorce, and other such events. Others experience depression for little things like hurting someone’s feelings, perceiving that they are the problem or the cause of someone else’s grief, or stress that becomes overwhelming to the individual.
Sometimes people who experience depression have no reason at all for experiencing it; it just suddenly happens. Another big reason that seems to add to the variables of having depression verses not is genetics. If the family is known to have a history of depression then that can impact the risk of depression significantly.
There are other reasons that may also come into play besides events and genetics such as the way the brain develops during childhood. If someone has had physical or psychological abuse especially when they are young that can be a heavy contributing factor to having depression.
So why is it such a big problem?
It seems that many people conceal their fear of having depression because so many people turn a blind eye to it, even when it is right in front of them. This happened with a boy named Kevin Breel.
On a TEDtalk in September 2013, he talked about how he felt like he was split between the person he wanted to be and the depression he was struggling to overcome, but he also felt scared of trying to get help. He tried dealing with depression on his own for the same reason that a lot of people who struggle with depression do. He felt that because he did not seem to have any reason to be depressed that people would shove him off and tell him to get over it.
You can view the full TEDtalk here:
Because depression is a hard thing to understand for so many people, it is given many definitions and stigmas. This seems to happen most because we give names to things in order to make sense of them, even if sometimes the name is not what it truly is. For depression, some alternately known stigmas are self-pity, “the blues”, and it is often accused of people using it simply to draw attention to themselves.
Depression is almost like an awkward child who no one really understands what makes them so awkward, and that makes it even more awkward to deal with. Since they don’t know how to deal with the child they hope that by leaving the child alone something good will come out of it and somehow the child will magically become less awkward. Depression, contrary to popular belief, is not something that can fix itself. If it is left unaddressed and untreated it can prove permanently damaging socially, mentally, and even physically to the people experiencing it.
There are varying forms of depression from depression that occurs due to poor diet, depression related to the change of seasons, bipolar disorder, MDD or Major Depressive Disorder, and everywhere in between. Because there is such a vast expanse of different kinds of depression it would seem like it should not be such a big issue and that people should simply get the help that they need in order to overcome it. As easy as that sounds, it is a bit more complex than it seems. Often people are afraid to look for help because of the mental barriers that hold them back from telling someone they are having problems or experiencing these symptoms. Outsiders who are not experiencing depression can help by abstaining from labeling, not judging those going through depression, and not always trying to fix the person who has depression like they are a problem to be solved.
There are many levels of depression and varying time constraints that depression will last for. The long-term affects of depression can be related to the cause of the depression itself. It can come for a couple of days and never be seen again for years or it can come for weeks, sometimes months, and not dissipate at all. It becomes increasingly more difficult because it is hard to tell the difference between grief and depression, and researchers are still trying to figure out all the specifics of depression in order to more accurately assess and treat it.
Depression can be treated but in order for it to work to the best of its ability it has to be in the right circumstances. Depression is like any disease or bodily problem: it needs to be treated as soon as possible in order to do the least amount of harm. If you had artheritis and you needed help to stop the pain then you would go to the doctor because because your body cannot compensate enough to take care of itself on its own. The same rules apply to depression: the brain has to be treated and assisted in the ways that it cannot overcome on its own. Because depression is something that is not physically seen but more psychologically felt it often gets shoved off or reasoned away by the person experiencing depression or by outsiders who no not understand the weight of what someone is experiencing. This is why it is so important to be informed about depression and treat it, as well as those suffering from it, accordingly.
Some of the most used treatments of depression are medical prescriptions, as well as psychotherapy. But these are not the only contributing factors to helping people with depression. Social and emotional treatments are just as important. It is extremely important for someone suffering with depression to have a good, supportive, understanding, and patient surrounding. People who suffer from depression cannot be reasoned or explained out of it. All the reasons not to be depressed, sad, or empty feeling may make sense to an outsider but the person experiencing depression cannot help that they feel depressed and giving them reasons not to be depressed may make them feel more hopeless. The best thing to do for someone who is suffering with depression is to be kind, nonjudgmental, to listen, and just be there for them. People with depression often are not looking for a solution; they are just looking for someone to be there for them.
Allie Brosh, author of her New York Times Best Selling book “Hyperbole and a Half”, wrote about about her experiences with depression on the blog that the book is derived from. She described depression as the comparison between when she was a child and she found so much enjoyment in playing pretend with her toys to when she got slightly older and suddenly did not find the same amount of enjoyment. She said that this is how depression is. You are doing the things you love and then suddenly all enjoyment, life, and happiness that was in those things is sucked out of the activity and somehow sucked out of you as well.
So many people never seek professional help or even help from friends or loved ones because they live in the state of fear: fear almost of being contagious in a way or that it will come off as simply self-pitying. This seems to be the stigma that follows depression. This may be why so many people struggle with depression and never say anything.
Depression is not easy to understand. It is no easier to deal with, whether you have depression, have had it, or are experiencing the affects of it through people around you. But it is important to understand. Understanding it can literally save someone’s life. So let us become more informed, less judgmental, and more understanding. This is the key to bringing light to a dark place: depression.
References and Citations:
“Depression (major Depressive Disorder).” Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic, 21 Feb. 2014. Web.
Breel, Kevin. “Transcript of “Confessions of a Depressed Comic”” TEDtalks. TEDtalks, 1 Sept. 2013. Web.
“Depression.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Web.
“Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two.” National Institute of Mental Health. National Institute of Mental Health. Web.
Brosh, Allie. “Depression Part Two.” Hyperbole and a Half. Blogspot, 9 May 2013. Web.
Pictures obtained from Flickr. In order of appearance:
Creative Commons, Alchemist Killing Hamlet, Uploaded on January 28, 2010 by Hartwig HKD (Copyright: Hartwig HKD. I do not own this image. No changes were made)
Creative Commons, Benched Thoughts, Uploaded on March 5, 2005 by Brian Auer (Copyright: Brian Auer. I do not own this image. No changes were made)
Creative Commons, Clinical Depression, Uploaded on November 22, 2007 by Yuliya Libkina (Copyright: Yuliya Libkina. I do not own this image. No changes were made)