Depression Isn’t Another Word For Selfishness

Our stigma against mental illness can--and does--end lives. | Illustration Source: Shutterstock

Our stigma against mental illness can–and does–end lives. | Illustration Source: Shutterstock

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.

And please, remember, if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or online via

Do you suffer with depression? Are you also faced with skepticism about your condition? Tell us in the comments.


16 Celebrities Talking About Their Depression

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  • Jess

    I have been in a psychiatric institute 3 times now. I am addicted to self harm but I’m living my life day by day and working through it. Cutting is my fix… I have been to the ER several times to have them stitch me up.. I cut on my thighs and belly.. I was 13 when I started, I stopped the started again at 14. My parents found out and they cried. It broke my heart so i tried to stop. They put me in counseling and I hated it. I remember that first session I stated that “cutting is my safety net.” Up to that point I had only cut 72 times. I was able to stay clean for 329 days. Then I relapsed, January 24th, 2014 until Febuar 26th, 2014 I had cut every single day. It wasn’t just one cut per day, and it wasnt small. I cut deeper and repeatedly. The small scratches/cuts wouldnt do anymore. I needed my skin to be covered in blood. I had no reason what so ever to cut. I didn’t have pain. I wasn’t horribly depressed. But my body needed it. I told my parents and that was my first time in the mental hospital. I was able to say clean for 29 days. The next time was worse.. I kept it quiet, I kept it hidden. I didnt tell anyone. Then I had a plan to go home and overdose… My family found out and that was my second time at the hospital. I had to go to a partial program everyday instead of school. I went to the hospital everyday for 6 hours. My attitude had changed. I needed to stop. I wanted to stop. But i was looking through my makeup bag for my mascara on May 6th and found a razor, I broke my number one rule. I cut on my arms. From my wrists to my elbow I you couldnt even see my skin. It was all cuts. I hadnt known what I was doing but I passed out on the bathroom floor from shock. My brother found me and rushed me to the hospital.. He thought I was dead. My brother cant look at me anymore with out having a panic attack now. I was in the hospital until the 15th.
    I have suicidal thoughts often but I refuse to give up. I have attempted several times and I shouldnt have. I deal with anxiety on a daily basis and have panic attacks on occasion. They have diagnosed me with several disorders most are short term but a few I’ll have for most of my life. My therapist told me that if you cut for years your blood becomes used to being cut so it stops clotting. Meaning if I get into a serious accident I could die because my blood wouldnt clot. Cutting will affect me for the rest of my Life. I have to take 5 meds daily and I hate it. We discovered that I had blocked memories and that is why i started cutting. I was sexually abused from age 9 to 11 by my old best friends Father. I live in fear now and I’m scared to know what else my mind has blocked from my memories.

  • Rachel

    When I suffered from depression, the stigma surrounding it in the environment I was in and amongst the people I knew made me wonder if there really was something wrong or if I was just being lazy. The attitude amongst my school friends had always been that if someone said they were having mental health problems they were just ‘doing it for the attention’. I felt so guilty receiving special assistance because I had convinced myself that my problems were just things I had made up in my head and that I was a complete fraud. It’s hard enough to work through treatment and get your life back together without having to convince yourself and people you know that the thing you are suffering from is actually real. Working eliminate stigma surrounding mental illness is so important to allow suffers to work through their problems without being shamed and doubted, and make the process of recovery much easier and better supported.

    Please remember girls, don’t give up hope – it’s always the darkest right before dawn, and soon enough you’ll see the sun rise. Xx

  • autumn2002

    dear ethan

    how do i now if i am trying to hard?

  • Vanessa

    Oh my gosh, THANK YOU for addressing this. I have seasonal effective Disorder so I’m generally pretty depressed durring the winter and I have anxiety on top of that so when I get upset out of nowhere people always assume im just doing it to gain intention when really, Im trying to keep control and down playing a lot of whats going on in my head. It also really makes me mad when people always say “Just remember that people have it worse than you do and you shouldn’t be upset” YEAH I KNOW THAT! Do people honestly think I WANT to constantly feel like I’m drowning and that everyone around me is moving except for me? Cuz I really don’t and I actually feel really guilty about it because i KNOW people have worse problems that I do and that I have a pretty good life but I’m still stuck inside this emotional hole and really, telling me that just makes it worse.

  • Maddie

    Hi I have been suffering so badly. I have been having thoughts about killing my self and throwing up for the past 3 months. I tried to talk to my parents about it but they won’t listen what should I do?

    • Chrissy

      Hey Maddie!
      Get help. I kept it in for a long time, and got way to close. The only thing that finally convinced my mom is when she saw me sitting on the roof, and only then because my sister suffered from depression. How old are you? If you are 18, you don’t need your parent’s permission to go to therapy. If you are under 18, talk to your doctor. If you can get them alone, explain to him/her that your parents wont listen.
      Also, you can always call suicide prevention hotlines and different resources, and get help that way. Not only will they be very supportive, they will more than likely be able to help you find other resources.
      Good luck, stay strong. Remember that there are people out there who love and need you. You aren’t alone ^_^

  • LilleMeg

    When I was depressed, I didn’t even understand it myself. I thought that the reason I was always tired was that I wasn’t sleeping well (and I didn’t, but that wasn’t the only reason). When the thought o going to school made me feel physically ill, I thought I was just lazy. When I thought about suicide, I blew it off as me seeking attention. I never told anyone about how I felt for years. Fortunately, I have very intelligent, understanding parents, and I really don’t know where I would be without them. Thank you for writing this, Ashley! You’re 100% correct!

  • Maren

    I know several people who have depression and/or anxiety. These disorders are very, very real, and if you’re incapable of fathoming something that you cannot see, then you need to let this image manifest in your mind as the damaging parasite it really is: a stubborn, hungry, sly monster that desires nothing more than to feed on its host’s emotions until that person feels empty. When you’re around someone who has depression and/or anxiety (or other disorders), you’re looking at the tip of the iceberg; you often have no idea what’s going on beneath the surface, what thoughts and emotions are being had and felt, unless that person tells you so. Stop acting so skeptical and start showing some support for those who have these real problems.