Destigmatisation is one of the most effective ways to beat depression. Destigmatisation is working to remove the disgrace associated with depression. It occurs on all levels – personal, local, governmental and global. The World Health Organisation points to depression being the second leading cause of DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Year) by 2020. This is both frightening and indicative of the sharp rise in awareness of depression.
How can this growing epidemic of depression be explained?
One explanation of the sharp increase in numbers says that depression could be over diagnosed, with many people medicalising natural sadness and grief by incorrectly diagnosing depression. Others argue destimgatisation encourages people to come forward with their experiences of depression, many of which previously would not acknowledge or speak about their problems.
The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
Nevertheless, destigmatisation is a very positive thing, as it corrects and clarifies harmful ways of thinking about depression. Coming forward and sharing how you beat depression can influence others’ decision to seek help or not. In spite of growing efforts to destigmatise depression many people still suffer in silence and fail to seek adequate treatment and support because of feeling ashamed.
Part of destigmatising depression means clarifying damaging misconceptions such as:
- Depression is about will power
- Depressed people are losers
- Depressed people can’t get better and will be like that all their lives
- Depressed people just need to cheer up
- Depressed people are selfish and self-centred
- Men don’t get depressed
- Depressed people are not normal, they are scary to be around and they might drag you down
These reasons are ultimately about stigmatisation of the condition both internally and externally. There are complex reasons why people don’t disclose their depression. These are five of the most common:
1. Fear of being labelled and judged by others as a failure or a weak person
In spite of significant strides forward in global destigmatisation there remain enormous amounts of people still suffering in silence for fear of speaking up. Depression can plague a person with deep-seated fear and loneliness. Often they do not want to risk themselves further by becoming vulnerable. For years they may experience tiredness, guilt, not feeling normal, and other crippling symptoms of depression or bipolar without speaking up. Destigmatisaion stops this and gives people greater hope and encouragement to speak up.
2. Depression is believed to be something that can be beaten by will power alone
This is an incorrect and harmful attitude that keeps many people suffering unnecessarily. You often find this attitude from people who are actually prone to depression because it is rigid and perfectionistic. It’s not about pulling up your socks and doing it all alone. People do beat depression by themselves, in that they alone can do it. But they CAN’T do it alone. If a serious condition is setting in no matter how much you exercise or try to fix it, it will not help unless you seek professional assistance. Please read our disclaimer and remember to put your health first.
3. Fear of speaking about and dealing with hurtful past experiences
There is a tremendous amount of psychological tension and conflict occurring when depression is severe. The unconscious mind is wanting to be made conscious and come forth to release something, but some part of the supergo – the part of the brain that regulates behaviour and moral codes – finds this threatening and fights against this. So naturally there is a lot of fear about working through past pains. Psychotherapy may be needed if this tension is especially powerful. This is often done in conjunction with a course of antidepressant medication.
4. Lack of adequate supports
A problem for many, especially those in remote communities and financially poor countries where resources are slim. In some countries medical practices are outdated and concerned with treating symptoms and not causes. Even in developed nations, particularly South Korea, mental illness is shameful and mental health services do not exist. If there isn’t any support, why admit something is wrong? People only disclose and heal from painful emotional disturbances when a helping hand and healing ear is offered.
There remains a strong stigma about mental health and depression. Twisted notions of lunatic asylums, straight-jackets and psychopaths are perpetuated in films, television and books. These ideas cascade down generations who want to sweep problematic emotions under the carpet. The mind, just like the body, is subject to sickness. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
The Way Forward
We have made giant strides in the last fifty years treating mood disorders, but there is still a long way to go. Fortunately there are are many people and organisations working hard to destigmatise depression. BeyondBlue is an excellent organisation in Australia that effectively destigmiatises depression by community awareness campaigns on a national level. Linda Hamilton, Kay Redfield Jamison and Stephen Fry are three well known bipolar sufferers who advocate very effectively for people with mental health conditions.
If you can, speak up about depression. If it’s hard to speak up, why not share a post from this site? Together we can continue to destigmatise mental illness.
How I Beat Depression is passionate about lowering the stigma of mental health and promote healing and thriving communities.