how can we break the stigma of depression?
The following blog post describes how we can break the stigma of depression, with an invitation to examine our emotions. Please consider and care for your own threshold and triggers before reading further.
Depression is a heavy, complex word. Reading it feels like opening a mysterious box–it brings up emotions, memories, fears, hopes, or losses. Even saying it out loud can be uncomfortable. It can feel like a whispered curse…like we might summon the bogeyman. In order to break the stigma of depression, we have to talk about our experience with the word itself.
First, Let’s examine our reactions to the word Depression:
When you read “depression,” what does it bring up for you? Feelings of grief? Confusion? Apathy? Trauma?
What if you say it out loud? Do you feel nauseated? Numb? Anxious?
Do you have a memory of someone saying it to you? What was that like?
Words infuse our lives with meaning, and the meaning of the word depression looks different for everyone, but it’s generally associated with feelings that are typically categorized as negative.
A “stigma” by nature, means something that inspires a negative assumption. So if you have a negative reaction to the word depression, your experience is fully justified (and likely universal)! Thoughts, feelings, and emotions associated with depression often feel difficult, upsetting, or confusing. The fact that there is a stigma associated with depression is fully understandable.
Upsetting feelings = poor experience with the word = negative perception of depression = stigma
Hold those reactions with curiosity instead of judgment.
As you may have just experienced, “Depression” doesn’t feel like a safe word. It doesn’t feel like an ok experience, whether it’s something you’ve experienced within yourself, or you’ve seen others walk through. We often carry this negative association, this stigma, with us without even realizing it.
We generally don’t hold on to stigma out of spite. We’re usually not out to hurt people who are struggling with their mental health. The truth is, in order to break the stigma of depression, we may need to take self-protective measures.
And guess what? That’s ok. You’re not a bad person if you struggle to talk about depression. Your brain is doing its best to protect you from scary, unknown things that it thinks could hurt you. This could look like avoiding your family members or friends who have depression because you don’t know what to say. Using other words like “grief” or “apathy” because they feel safer. Zoning out while reading this blog post because you feel all jumbled up inside.
You may also feel both scared and guilty–experiencing emotions, yet feeling like you shouldn’t. But stopping yourself from feeling isn’t going to break the stigma of depression. Instead, hold this moment with curiosity.
Instead of thinking “I should be fine with talking about depression, why can’t I get over it.”
Try, “I am working on becoming comfortable talking about depression.”
Instead of “I hate thinking about depression, it makes me scared.”
Try, “I understand why I might feel scared talking about depression, and that’s ok.”
Instead of “I don’t know how to talk to Derek when he’s depressed.”
Try, “I feel uncomfortable talking to Derek, what could I learn/do to feel more comfortable?”
Your goal is to give yourself compassion. Your experiences are valid, your emotions are valid, and you’re doing your best. Once you can get to a place of self-compassionate examination instead of judgment, you may realize that thinking and talking about depression becomes easier.
Then, take time to learn about Depression
We become scared of the things we don’t know. But understanding depression may continue to help relieve some of the negative feelings we may have. As Marie Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”
It’s important to know that clinical depression is a medical illness. It has nothing to do with how good someone’s life is, how nice they are, (or if you’re a Christian, how much faith you have). There are various things that can cause depression, including genetics, illnesses or diseases, trauma, or even the seasons.
It’s also important to know that depression is highly treatable! For people with depression, 80%-90% of folks respond positively to treatment. Understanding that depression is an illness, and a treatable one, often helps us see more clearly. We empathize with our loved ones who are experiencing depression, just like we would if they had a virus. We can give ourselves compassion and care, just like we would if we had the flu. There is absolutely no need to be ashamed if you’re experiencing depression.
If you feel you may be struggling with depression, take the time to learn about it. Examine some of the symptoms, and talk with your doctor or a trained professional, like a counselor. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by depression, struggling with feelings of self-harm, or like you want to end your life, you can always call 988, the National Crisis Lifeline. Because if there is no shame in having depression, there’s no shame in reaching out for help,
Identifying your experience with the word, examining your emotions with curiosity, and learning more about depression are all important steps! These are just starting points, but they’ll set you on your way to break the stigma of depression.
FIND A CHRISTIAN THERAPIST
Research shows that much of the change people experience during their time in therapy is because they felt heard and understood by their therapist–that their therapist “got them” and that the guidance they gave was relevant and applicable. Because of this, it is critical that you find a therapist whom you can connect with, whom you feel comfortable with, whom you feel “gets you.” Therefore, we encourage you to take a few minutes to read a little about each one of our therapists. If you prefer to look at the counselors nearest to you, please click the office location buttons below. Otherwise, you can meet with any of our Christian Counselors online from the comfort of your own home. If you have questions about any of them, please contact us!