There are many myths circulating out there about depression. Especially with the internet, it’s very easy for people to learn wrong information and misunderstand what depression really is. Here are 7 common myths about depression and the facts to debunk them.
- “Depression is a sign of weakness or laziness and you can snap out of it”: Depression is not something a person can force themselves to get over. It’s a condition that is the result of a number of factors, like brain chemistry, genes, and stressful life events.
- “Their life seems to be going great so they don’t have a reason to feel depressed”: Negative life events can lead to depression, but it’s not the only trigger. Other than the factors listed in #1, medication, change in hormone levels, and substance use can also affect one’s mental state. Sometimes, there’s not a clear reason as to why someone is struggling with depression.
- “Depression is just feeling sad”: While feeling of sadness is a symptom of depression, a person may experience multiple other symptoms such as losing interest in activities they once enjoyed and changes in appetite or sleep. These symptoms last for weeks to months and interfere with a person’s daily functioning.
- “Only certain people get depression”: Depression can happen to anyone from any age group, ethnicity, gender, economic class, and so on.
- “You have to take antidepressants forever”: Even though antidepressants are a common long-term treatment option, it does not have to be permanent. Psychotherapy combined with medication has been shown to be an effective treatment option. Depression is treatable, but recovery is a process.
- “If your family has a history of depression, then you will get it too”: Although having a history of depression in the family leads to higher chances of you developing depression, it’s not certain that you will get depression. There is still a lot more research to be done on the effect genetics have in developing depression.
- “We shouldn’t talk about it as it’ll only make it worse”: Many people think that talking about it will cause the person to only think about their negative feelings. However, keeping their feelings to themselves might cause more harm than good. Talking about it allows the person to think through their feelings and recognise their negative thinking. If your loved one wants to talk to you about their feelings, you can be there for them by providing an understanding and nonjudgmental ear.
These misconceptions about depression can have a negative influence on those suffering from it. It adds on to the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and could lead people to feel ashamed about their illness. As a result, people might not seek the help they need. They could end up being socially isolated. Negative and low expectations of people suffering from mental health conditions can hinder them from trying to live a more normal life. They could potentially face barriers in finding housing, jobs, and other various services. If these misconceptions are constantly reinforced, individuals might start to believe that the negative stereotypes are true and get caught in a cycle of social rejection and unhealthy self-deprecation.
So what are some ways to break our explicit and implicit biases around mental health? Here are some things that I’ve done to help break stigma and advocate for mental health!
- Keep an open mind. It might be hard, but try not to close your mind off in a box and think your beliefs are always right. Try seeing things from other people’s perspective and ask yourself how it might feel to be them.
- Find credible information about mental illnesses and learn about them. Use information from established organisations and professionals. Don’t trust the first thing you find on the internet. There are a lot of credible resources (such as the ones from MindHK’s community directory!). Once you find them, take the time to learn about various mental illnesses.
- Advocate. The next step after educating yourself is to help educate others! If someone says something you know is not true, politely share why their belief is wrong and try to change their perspective. Debunk the myths they have about mental illness.
- Volunteer. Find an organisation to volunteer at. By being a volunteer, you can help raise awareness and educate the public about mental health. Some organisations work directly with people suffering from a mental illness. This is a great chance to help out in a more hands-on way and support others with a mental illness.
As a volunteer with Coolminds, I’ve been able to help advocate for mental health through helping to create posts for social media. It’s a valuable experience for me because I’ve been able to learn more about mental health and change some misconceptions that I’ve had about mental illness. Getting to work with others who are passionate about this topic has inspired me to continue spreading awareness and fighting to break the stigma against mental illness.
Although it might be difficult, I think it’s important for us to strive towards transforming the perception people have of mental health. Anyone can experience a mental health condition and they shouldn’t be cast out because of their suffering. People’s expectations and image of others can be more influential than we realise. In order to solve the problem, I believe part of the solution comes with changing our own thoughts and encouraging being accepting and non-judgmental of those who are different from us.
Healthwise Staff. “Myths and Facts about Depression.” University of Michigan Health: Michigan Medicine, 23 Sept. 2020, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ug4843
“Myths about Depression.” Centre for Health Protection , 5 Apr. 2017.
“Myths and Misconceptions about Depression.” HealthHub, 4 June 2019, https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/509/mythsandmisconceptionsaboutdepression
“What Is Depression?” American Psychiatric Association, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression