October is Depression Awareness Month. The more awareness there is around depression and mental illness, the less stigma there is associated with mental health. By increasing awareness and reducing the stigma, we hope more people will seek the help they need.
Fact—depression is a serious illness. It is more than just sadness or “the blues.” Depression can have an impact on nearly every aspect of a person’s life. But it is also treatable. It’s important to know that depression shows up differently in different people.
Below are four common misconceptions about depression and what the truth is.
MISCONCEPTION: Depression is all in your head
TRUTH: Depression is a legitimate medical condition related to brain chemistry, function, structure, and sometimes involves environmental or biological factors. Symptoms of depression can be physical and emotional and include everything from fatigue, irritability, digestive issues, headaches, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and self-doubt.
MISCONCEPTION: The best way to help someone with depression is to cheer them up
TRUTH: While the intention is positive, telling someone with depression to “just cheer up” or “snap out of it” can actually make it harder for them to get the help they need. Depression is much more complicated than that, and the best way to help a person with depression is to make sure they have access to help. By making yourself more aware of how to help your loved ones, you can provide resources and support them in a more productive way.
MISCONCEPTION: Depression mostly just affects women
TRUTH: Our culture sometimes discourages men from discussing their feelings, asking for help or showing signs of weakness. As a result, some men turn away from seeking help. But the truth is that men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and white males over the age of 45 are most vulnerable, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are a man experiencing depression or have thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone. According to research done by the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately six million American men go through depression each year. It’s important for our culture to
acknowledge the importance of mental health treatment for everyone who needs it and this includes men.
MISCONCEPTION: Talking about it only makes it worse
TRUTH: Addressing it actually is a relief. Showing support can be very valuable for the person going through depression. Try not to ignore the symptoms of depression if you see it in your spouse, children, friends, family, or co-workers. Friends and family members can be very helpful to a person experiencing depression by listening and offering steady support and encouragement.
Know When To Ask For Help
It’s important to know that depression is treatable through medication and/or psychotherapy, and that recovery is possible. If you are concerned about your mental health, or that of someone you love, talking with a therapist can help.
Maaliea Wilbur is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Executive Director of TherapyWorks. With 10-plus years of experience, Maaliea’s broad-level expertise allows her to successfully support kids, teens, adults, couples and families. For information visit mytherapyworks.com.