Stigma around mental health

The Stigma Around Depression Needs To End

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: There is a stigma around depression.

Well, mental illness, in general, tends to be frowned upon, but depression is among the most common (and most obvious) mental disorders, making it a particularly sore sight.

In one study, about 30% of the participants believed that a weak personality causes depression.

Any mental health professional will tell you that this belief is absolutely false.
Anyone can develop any kind of mental disorder, and a person’s strength of character has nothing to do with their mental health.

In fact, people with depression are often the ones with the most strength of character.

With over 300 million people affected worldwide, you probably personally know at least one person with a depressive disorder.
You would think that being so close to the problem at hand, people would be more accepting of it.

Not so.

The social stigma surrounding depression is still as great as ever.

And it needs to stop.

Society is intolerant towards mental health issues

In society, there is a certain measure of intolerance towards mental health issues.
You will often find people rolling their eyes at the problem, telling those who suffer from them to “get over it” and that “everyone has problems”

Alternatively, many people with different disorders tend to be viewed as unhinged, violent or just plain “bad company”.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to say that mental illness is a cause of a violent crime.
Whether or not it’s true, it does nothing to help the stigma

These thoughts and opinions often lead to people with mental health conditions to be discriminated.
For example, not inviting someone to a social gathering because they will “ruin the mood” or calling them names based on their condition.

Depressed people are discriminated against at work

According to one study, 62.5% of the participants experience discrimination at work.
Not only that, but over 60% of them stopped themselves from applying to work, education, or training because they anticipated discrimination.

To an extent, this makes perfect sense.
After all, people with depression are known to be less productive, and no one wants to hire people who aren’t productive.

However, as it turns out, this line of thinking, and discrimination, in general, does far more harm than good.
Not only for those who suffer from depression but for everyone in general.

Depression is very common

Discrimination only makes depression worse

It’s not uncommon for people with depression to be pushed aside.
They aren’t necessarily the best company, and most people prefer those with more “upbeat” and “fun” personalities.

And to be fair, depressed people can be pretty draining and difficult at times.

At this point, if you have depression, one of two things is likely to happen:

  • You pretend as though everything is fine
  • You start withdrawing from society

In either situation, the outcome is ultimately the same:

  • If you pretend that you are fine you might get people to hang out with, but you’ll not be able to form any meaningful connections with them.
    Ultimately, you will just stay as lonely as ever, no matter how many people you surround yourself with.
  • If you start isolating yourself you will be able to avoid discrimination, but you’ll also be missing out on your biggest chance to get better.
    After all, human interaction is one of the things that will help you with your condition the most.

Either way, it seems as though discrimination is practically guaranteed to make your condition worse.

The biggest thing that people don’t get though is that your condition can affect them as well.

Discrimination puts pressure on Depressed people

Work discrimination, in some ways, is an even bigger problem.
People who seem unable to “put in the hours” and “handle the grind” won’t get far in their workplace.

Those who are offered a promotion, or a raise, or even just kept around, are often the best performers, or the ones that appear to do the most work for the company.

The thing is, everyone knows that – Including people with depression.
So, under these circumstances, what would you do? You are slowly dying inside, but without your job you may very well find yourself on the streets.

What if you have debt? What about your family? Surely you won’t risk that?

No, you won’t.

People will hide their condition at work

Here’s what you will do instead: You’ll pretend that you’re fine.

We’ve talked about this previously, but let’s look at it from a different perspective.
You’ll pretend that you’re fine, you’ll work as hard as you can work, you might even get a promotion and a nice raise.

But that won’t help you.

in fact, among all workers (employees, self-employed and otherwise) it’s management that tends to suffer from depression the most. More specifically, middle management.

In other words, these are unhappy, solid performers that are not living up to their full potential.
Hence why they got they were promoted in the first place but didn’t achieve much beyond that.

If you are a co-worker, you might end up carrying the load when they take many sick/vacation days or, inevitably, start cracking under the pressure.

And if you’re the boss? Well, good luck.

Depression affects work

Depression is a disability

According to the World Health Organization:

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. 

Based on this definition, depressive disorders can absolutely make you disabled.
When severe enough, depression will limit a person’s ability to function to the point where they will not be able to support themselves.

Governments worldwide recognize this fact, taking different steps to help depressed people with their condition.
In some countries, visits to therapists and psychiatrists are subsidized and people with a documented, severe case of depression are recognized as disabled.

Even in the United States, depressed people can potentially receive social security benefits.

The modern world, at large, recognizes depression for what it is.

So why do so many people don’t feel the same?

Intolerance is born out of a lack of understanding

The real issue here, the reason why depression is so stigmatized, is that people just don’t understand it.

Unlike many other disabilities, depression can absolutely be invisible, making it easy to underestimate and disregard.

Heck, the term “depression” is so overused that we say that we are “depressed” if we feel unhappy or sad.
The overuse of the term, the way that people confuse feelings and emotions with mental health issues, make the condition seem like a lot less than it actually is.

Just to be clear:

  • Depression is not a “mood” a person gets into
  • It’s not something that you can just ‘get over’
  • They aren’t just faking it because they want attention
  • It’s not a sign of weakness
  • It absolutely is a real illness

These are just a few of the misconceptions and myths surrounding depression.
Not only that, but most people can’t actually pinpoint what the condition specifically is.

This has gotten us to the point where many people who suffer from a depressive disorder don’t even realize that themselves!
After all, as far as they understand it, it’s just the way everyone feels, at least from time to time.

Most cases of depression go untreated

Between the social stigma, the misinformation, and the outright ignorance surrounding the topic, many people with depression don’t actually get the help that they need.

In fact, there are many more people with depression that don’t get any treatment than ones that do.
Even in the richest, most modern countries, only 1 in 5 people with depression sought help.

That’s a crazy number.

But with all of that being said, there are some good news: *Everyone* wants depression gone

Aside from some people who work in the field of mental health, we all benefit from minimizing depression.
After all, if depression makes people “not fun” and “difficult”, it’s in everyone’s interest that they stop being depressed!

For example, studies show that employees with depression miss fewer days of work when bosses support them.

A small bit of kindness and understanding can go a long way, and we all can benefit from it.

Supporting people with mental illnesses

Reach out to others

This piece of advice applies to both depressed people and people who know depressed people.

  • If you are depressed, find people who you can trust, who will not push you away, and talk to them.
  • If you know someone who might be depressed, reach out to them, be their friend, or at least someone they can talk to.

When it comes to depression there are no winners, and it’s difficult for everyone.
Only by making it “okay” to be depressed and talking about mental health openly can we start turning things around.

If you are serious about getting better, or helping a friend get better, I’d recommend trying out the Destroy Depression Program
The program is basically a self-help guide, allowing people with depression to start helping themselves without the need for medication or a therapist (although I highly recommend getting one regardless)

At the very least it’s a start.

If you have any questions or just want to talk feel free to post a comment or send me an email, I always do my best to reply.

Email: [email protected]

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