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Mental health MATTERS: myths and misconceptions around depression

Mental Health and its manifestations

DEPRESSION and MENTAL HEALTH – terms we often throw around so easily. These are usually words we use to describe anything starting from a bad day to an overwhelming inability to live life. Depression is more than you think. It isn’t something we can casually comprehend. It is complex and one cannot cope with it alone. Like for every physical illness we rush to our doctors for mental illness also we need to consult our therapist as early as possible.

Though nowadays the death of a number of celebrities, Sushant Singh Rajput being the latest one, has forced open dialogue regarding depression and mental health in our living rooms. These conversations are not free from myths and prejudices.

#1Myth: Depression is all in your head.

Fact: Depression is a psychological, social, and biological disorder. It’s chronic and takes treatment to manage. Someone who is depressed can’t just shut it off or ‘suck it up.’ We only perceive the emotional side of depression, like acting not acting like yourself. If we take time to realise that depression is a condition that causes physical issues as well, maybe we would start seeing depression as a real disease that takes time and treatment to heal.

#2 Myth: You can simply snap out of it. But people just want to seek attention

Fact: Depression can be a disorder that could handicap a person. One cannot simply “Snap out of it”. The negative thoughts and emotions will increase to such an extent that people usually tend to get sucked into it.  Many therapist and professionals compare depression to that of quicksand, where people step into without knowing and they feel like they have no other option now but to drown. Since they begin to look at the world through the lenses of depression, the world might seem like a dark place.

#3 Myth: Medications are the only form of treatment for depression.

Fact: The manifestation of symptoms of depression for each person is unique on its own based on the individual’s biological attributes, life experiences, ability to cope vs the demand posed by specific life circumstances. This being the case, medications are not the only form of treatment for depression. Medications are important to bring back the balance of chemicals in the brain, which helps to uplift the mood of a person. Just like a doctor’s approach for fever will be completely different from diabetic. Different mental health issues need different treatment and different approach.

#4 Myth: Depression can only happen in response to a traumatic event.

Fact: There are a lot of factors that can cause depression in a person it is not necessary that a person need to go through a traumatic situation to be in depression. A traumatic event is something that increases the chances of depression, but that need not necessarily be the cause of depression. Often times people feel that they are depressed only if they feel suicidal. Depression can also occur in a person whose life is seemingly fine from every aspect. It depends on the circumstances, one’s upbringing, the personality of a person, the coping skills of a person, etc.

#5 Myth: If you have a family member with depression, you will have it too.

While there is a genetic component in depression, research shows it is not that significant. Among the people who have a relative who deals with depression, only 10 to 15 percent will also develop depression. Those who have family members with depression may have a better understanding of the signs and might be more sensitive to changes in their own behavior and emotions.

#6 Myth: Depression is the same as being sad.

Feeling low and being depressed are two different things. Depression can be brought on by feelings of sadness, but feeling low doesn’t last as long as an episode of depression. Depression can last from a few weeks to an entire year. Unlike sadness, depression usually doesn’t go away on its own it needs medical attention. People with depression have many other emotions other than just feeling sad. They may feel anxious, tense, empty, and experience other negative emotions. Depression also does not go away with time or encouragement from friends and loved ones but sadness may go away.

When speaking to a person who is experiencing a bout of depression. It is our responsibility as an educated and civilized member of this society to be sensitive towards them. Depression requires every individual to follow the principle of ‘ Each One Help One’, it is only then can we, as a modern society get rid of the archaic prejudices that are surrounding depression and mental illness even today and actually help those in need.

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