Mental health problems are stigmatized in today’s society as something that is shameful or even not real. People who suffer from it refuse to discuss what is going on openly, all because of fear that our society will perceive them to be weak individuals. Plus, it is extremely hard to talk about depression. So, instead of seeking help, they keep their mouths shut, which prevents them from getting the support they need. We can point out some of the main issues regarding the problem of uninformed attitudes about mental health issues.
- Communication gap
It is actually a vicious circle: people who have mental health problems usually don’t choose to talk about it, but the ones who do – often hit a wall of misunderstanding. Too often it happens that people with these problems feel like they’re not being listened to or that their thoughts and feelings are not acknowledged. There is a great communication gap between those who feel depressed and those who are healthy. People treat depression as something that could be chased away just with will power, but it doesn’t work that way. For them, it is very hard to understand the point of view of the person who is struggling, because their healthy perspective is standing in the way. For a depressed person, simple tasks like getting up, eating or focusing on studying seem impossible. Healthy people cannot fully understand this because they are used to doing all of that with ease. So, instead of talking about it, depressed people will often choose silence. Talking about it is painful, not being taken seriously is devastating.
- Prejudices: taking medications means a person is crazy
There is a well-said truth: depression is a flaw in chemistry, not character. Depressed people often feel like the whole world is out of their reach, like they are somehow different and they don’t belong. They start identifying themselves with their condition, which leads to feeling worthless and incomplete as a person. All this makes them overlook their fine qualities and the beauty of life. Depression does come from a chemical imbalance, and there are successful treatments. Still, it isn’t enough just to swallow pills, it takes a great deal of effort to overcome depression. A depressive episode does have a lot to do with levels of serotonin, endorphin, and cortisol, as well as the overall brain activity, but it takes strength and will to confront the problems. So, it has a bit to do with character too. The problem is that people taking anti-depressants are often stigmatized as crazy or wrong in the head. The lack of empathy makes them feel even smaller, and so they continue to shut down. Medications are a perfectly normal means of getting better, but society forces another preconception about it, leaving those who are suffering to feel like there is something deeply wrong with them. There is always that fear that we will be perceived as patients, not as human beings; that kind of dehumanization is scary.
- Expressing feelings is hard
Depression can have various triggers or it can be caused by overthinking, but mostly it is just present, even though there is no rational reason for it. Telling people how you feel can be hard, especially when you don’t think your words will be taken seriously. Being tired often gets to the point of exhaustion, so indulging yourself in endless discussions, where the other person keeps going on and on about how it is all in the head – makes you want to stop before you begin. However, it isn’t hard just for the person who’s dealing with the problem of depression. It is hard for other ones who love that person too, because they can’t seem to reach out effectively. So, something that seems innocent like saying how do you feel, can actually escalate to fighting and hurting each other. There is a mutual lack of understanding: a person who feels depressed doesn’t understand how others can have such a light view of the world, and vice versa. In these conditions, people who are having problems with depression are simply not able to stand up for themselves rationally and speak out about how real their mental illness is, just like any physical one.
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts are often treated only as dramatic cries for help
More serious cases of depression can end fatally. People can start feeling trapped, and dark thoughts may start haunting them. Talking about it is important, but it rarely does happen. From a healthy person’s position, these thoughts can be perceived as indicators of weakness or overdramatazing a problem. Not taking these issues seriously makes a depressed person feel rejected and not important. That is why these thoughts are not communicated enough. Suicide attempts can be cries for help, but more often they are just acts of complete helplessness.
- Society forces depressed people to think they can handle it on their own
How many times have you heard a person say I’m fine, it’s nothing or it’s just a bad day – even though that “day“ has lasted for a few months? People are pressured not to show their emotions or not to show themselves as vulnerable. There are different types of depression: sometimes, you don’t need medication, you just need some other perspective. Sometimes it is enough to talk to an understanding friend, sometimes it is better to talk to an expert. And there is nothing shameful in that. Talking to a psychologist or a psychiatrist can help you in the process of solving problems and help you shift your perspective; you can become more productive, happier and more satisfied with yourself. The worst thing to do when talking with depressed people is to look at their problems as insignificant. Having respect towards a person who struggles with something is a key to providing firm support. It is important to keep in mind that we are all different and can handle different amounts of pain.
To conclude, check out video by Buzzfeed below. Through humor, Buzzfeed has managed to show how people tend to ignore the symptoms of mental illness and disregard them as unreal, thinking that this is something that humans have total control of.