It's Not All In Your Head: Depression Myths
Today is World Mental Health Day and I would be remiss if I did not post. Globally, over 300 million people are suffering from depression. My own struggle with depression was a big reason why I started this blog. There are so many myths about depression which continues to be one of the main reasons why mental health issues are still a stigma in our communities.
It’s not all in your head.
This is a common depression myth. It’s not all in your head, you aren’t making it up. What you are experiencing and feeling is very real. So real, in fact, that you can experience physical symptoms of depression. It can change your sleeping habits, eating habits, mood, and overall health.
You’re not just sad.
Also a common myth. Serious depression goes beyond sadness. Depression can cause feelings of guilt, discontent, agitation, anger, hopelessness, and isolation. Equating depression to “just being sad” is dismissive and dangerous.
You can’t just snap out of it and simply choose to be happy!
For one reason or another, many believe that depression is a choice. Nobody wakes up one morning and says "I choose to be depressed today." I wrote a whole post on this myth, check it out here.
You’re not too young to be depressed.
Depression does not discriminate based on age. The first time I can recall feeling depressed was at 12. Some may say that’s too young, but as a twelve-year-old, I fantasized about killing myself more often than I’m proud to admit. As a preteen then I constantly felt like life would be much better if I wasn’t alive. I once read an article that talked about an eight-year-old who committed suicide... EIGHT. No one is exempt from depression.
Black people do get depressed.
Speaking of nobody being exempted. My people, that includes you. We aren’t an exception. We don’t have to remain strong in all situations. African Americans are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the general population but are the least likely to seek help or treatment.
Depression is not a sign of weakness or lack of strength.
I loathe hearing this so much. Depression doesn’t mean you are weak or lacking strength. We are all human. As humans, we feel emotions, some more than others. We are not robots that are incapable of being affected by the everyday happenings of life.
It’s not just women.
Remember, depression doesn’t discriminate. Statistically, women do suffer at higher rates than men but that does not mean that there aren’t men suffering. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among American men is about four times higher than among women. Hear from black men who’ve sought treatment.
Other people may have it much worse, but you’re hurting too.
Often times we invalidate our pain because we feel like we have no right to complain when others have it worst. Many people don’t believe mental illnesses are real illnesses. Yes, there are people who physically suffer every day, there are some who are bedridden, handicapped, etc etc. But this does not negate the fact that you feel pained as well.
Everyone’s depression won’t look the same.
There’s no cookie-cutter image of what depression looks like for everyone. Some people won’t even “seem” depressed. There are people who can hide their feelings and appear to be the happiest in the room. Some mask their pain in other activities. Some over-work or exercise, other’s may drink or smoke their pain away.
You don’t need a reason to be depressed.
It’s not always a traumatic event or set of events, that sparks depression. It can seem to come out of nowhere or build up over time. This is another way feelings are invalidated, “you don’t have anything to be depressed about” is a common phrase.
More often than not, you can’t pray it away.
This one will upset some folks. I was once told I wasn’t praying hard enough to make my depression go away. I was also told that it was a demon that could be prayed out. This is not to bash anyone’s religious beliefs and their methods. I’m also not saying to NOT pray, I am saying you do not have to rely on prayer alone. Seek help outside of your religious affiliation to receive a form of unbiased help and treatment.
If you are or think someone you know maybe, experiencing depression, don’t be afraid to seek help. This could simply be confiding in a loved one, meditation, or seeking therapy. Take care of you.