Shades of Stigma: Depression

I want to talk about the different kinds of stigma people with brain problems have to deal with. In dealing with depression, you often have to do a lot of work to overcome your own biases about things like meds and therapy. Even if you do manage to overcome those, you always run the risk of having to deal with other people who haven’t. It’s a challenge, and it can make it difficult to talk about your condition and what you’re doing about it for fear that others will be judgmental.

For today, depression itself. For a long time before I realized I had it (and was subsequently diagnosed with it by a professional), I tended to think of depression as something that you only ended up with if you didn’t understand the world very well. Something you got if your priorities were crooked or some such. I was wrong. I’ve known people who thought the key to getting out of depression was as simple as thinking positive. Those people are wrong. There is a place for learning to change the way you think about things in dealing with depression, but it is not even close to a miracle cure. Then there’s the “Just suck it up” mentality, for which I’ve always liked this response:

“I guess my other pet peeve is when people think that ‘suck it up’ is an acceptable response to depression or suicide. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s just plain not helpful. It’s like seeing someone broken down on the side of the road with smoke coming out of their engine and saying ‘Hey, have you tried fixing your engine?'”

Depression is hard shit. It’s hard, it’s complex, and if you know someone with it, chances are that things like “Think positive” or “Suck it up” are going to hurt, not help. Depression is a brain problem. There are a lot of ways to try and deal with it, but dealing with it is almost never simple or easy, and if you honestly think someone’s response to “Think positive” is going to be “You know, I’ve never heard that before; thanks man”, then here is a tip from me to you: you are wrong.

It helps people with depression to have people they can talk to about it. It doesn’t help when those people make flippant, oversimple assumptions about their condition. If you’re talking to someone who is depressed, always ask before assuming. “Have you tried X”, is a better thing to say than, “You should try X”, and, “What have you tried?”, is better than, “Have you tried X”. By the same token, asking, “How can I help”, is a much better idea than assuming you know what will help and doing that.


One comment on “Shades of Stigma: Depression

  1. Pingback: Tool vs. Solution: An Important Distinction in Dealing with Depression | Research to be Done

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