Depression isn't necessarily related to individuals who aren't able to function, as there are numerous individuals who are depressed (whether they know it or not) and manage their daily affairs. These individuals -- such as me in the past -- maintain their daily activities, but may also struggle with an undisclosed personal challenge.
Individuals who are depressed don't often readily admit to it to others or themselves. Many times individuals won't make this admission because these types of disclosures can lead to the receipt of negative commentary related to an affected party being weak, crazy, or not having coping skills. These negative references are a significant factor that many individuals don't seek help (professional or otherwise) and often self-medicate.
The origin of an individual's depression can be related to:
- psychological -- irregular brain activity;
- physiological -- a chemical imbalance;
- situational -- a specific event;
- periodic -- certain time periods (e.g., anniversary of a divorce, death, or something else)
Knowledge about these variations in the origin of depression is an important starting point to gain a better understanding and to make a quicker determination about an individual who might be affected by depression.
It's also important to note that there are many different manifestations of depression. Individuals who are depressed might have or experience:
- withdrawal -- decreased involvement or a complete halt with activities that an individual normally enjoys;
- sleeping pattern changes -- sleep schedule is erratic and/or an individual is sleep deprived;
- substance abuse -- use of prescribed drugs or self-medication to deal with the emotional affect of depression;
- excessive activities -- distractions to keep themselves occupied (e.g., overeating, constant exercise, increased sexual activity, compulsive cleaning, overworking, etc.)
Anyone who experiences health related challenges shouldn't be further stigmatized by negative commentary, attitudes, or behaviors.
Depression is a medical condition that should be treated, which isn't any different than addressing other bodily ailments. If someone feels bad due to a pain in the body, the individual won't normally receive negative commentary (e.g., being a wimp or needing to be tougher) based on the disclosure. This type of understanding and sensitivity should be applied to mental health ailments, too. Anyone who makes someone feel inferior due to any medical issue(s) places an unnecessary stigma and burden on an individual who might otherwise seek professional and/or familial assistance --- if their medical concerns weren't considered a shortcoming.
An individual might appear to function normally, however, there's a noticeable difference or a suspicion that something is wrong. In these times, anyone who has concerns about someone's behavior should ask if there are any issues that might need to be discussed. This moment of concern may make the difference between someone who unnecessarily suffers alone, gets medical attention, discovers an outlet for their stress, or in worst cases prevents someone from committing suicide. It doesn't take a lot of time to actively demonstrate that someone cares and that an individual doesn't have to suffer alone.
Mental health issues cover a spectrum ranging from something that might only affect someone for a few hours or days to something that is more comprehensive that might be dealt with for weeks, months, or years. No matter the severity of the mental health issue(s), there shouldn't be any unnecessary barriers -- from individuals or societies -- that might prevent someone from seeking medical assistance.
It's time as a society that we collectively "choose to take a stand" about mental health issues, including depression. The change that's needed starts with the ability to have open and honest conversations about mental health issues that can change and also save lives. Otherwise, someone you love might unnecessarily suffer due to misplaced concerns about others' beliefs or attitudes versus seeking treatment for a legitimate medical condition.
This post originally appeared on S. L. Young's blog on his website at: www.slyoung.com
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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.