It’s in our nature as humans to question the existence of what we can’t see. Sometimes this natural skepticism has led to great things, like a little thing called free thought. But this tradition lives on in far more destructive ways when it comes to mental illnesses like depression. The stigma is real and it is real effed up.
The reason why I’m even delving into this right now is because earlier this week a high school student named Maddie Yates commited suicide after posting a video on YouTube explaining why she intended to kill herself. What really struck me was when she said, “The doctor prescribed Prozac for depression and anxiety, but those are just fancy words for ‘selfish.’”
This is what happens when we live in a society that downplays depression: Even people suffering with it are convinced it is BS.
In a way I can understand where skeptics are coming from. When your best friend says that he/she is depressed and you recall him/her laughing at your jokes during lunch or happily taking a selfie with you the other day, it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that this person feels so down. You feel down a lot of the time, too, right? Some of you have been through hell and back and you still wouldn’t identify depressed. It’s easy for to deny that someone has problems when their problems don’t seem all that unique. It’s even easier for our skepticism to turn into resentment and to turn a cry for help into a desperate ploy for attention.
But there’s something that skeptics don’t want to acknowledge: Depression is an actual disorder that affects real people everyday; people of every gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, education, class, etc on earth. Sometimes it’s a result of one’s surroundings. Sometimes it’s genetic. Sometimes it’s a mix of the two and sometimes it just happens. But no matter how or why one’s brain decides to induce feelings of low mood and hopelessness, it should never be reduced to a scheme to get attention.
We live in a society that thinks depression is a problem that only privileged people think they have. We live in a society that reduces self-harm to emo girls trying to get attention. We live in a society that refuses to acknowledge the fact that maybe–just maybe–everyone’s brains work differently. We live in a society that assumes depression can just be solved with a few laughs. We live in a society that thinks we understand depression but we don’t…at all.
There are so many other girls and boys, men and women, young and old who are just like Yates and are convinced that they’re nothing more than attention seeking brats for the way their low-mood affects their behavior and relationships. There isn’t an easy cure-all that will prevent them from feeling this way. But those of us who don’t suffer the same problems can–at the very least–stop believing that their problems aren’t real problems.
Someone you know and love is probably suffering from depression right now and needs your support, not your skepticism. Don’t be that person.
Do you suffer with depression? Are you also faced with skepticism about your condition? Tell us in the comments.