Depression is not ostentatious – it’s a silent killer, and many who struggle with it do so silently, and often not through fault of their own. One look at the information available on the stigmatization of depression and the ill-conceived perception of procrastination and concentration problems as matters of ‘laziness’ and ‘willpower’ should tell you all you need to know – despite everything said in the contrary, society at large is still a very hostile place to those who are mentally ill, and it takes a lot of courage to stand up for your right to seek help when you’re told to suck it up, stop the melodrama, and drop the act.
Over 16.2 million Americans struggle with episodes of major depressive disorder, one of the most common mental health issues in the world. Yet most of them – the vast majority, actually – do not seek help. Stigma and self-stigma are at the heart of this, fearing help and medication because it means you’ve ‘lost’, that you’ve succumbed and that you’re weak. But this notion is not only wrong, it’s incredibly harmful. Thousands die needlessly because they didn’t choose to seek out help. Like any other illness or disease, depression must be addressed and treated professionally, as per a patient’s needs and circumstances. And it must be addressed swiftly.
One of the most pervasive thoughts in depression is the thought of loneliness. Depressive thinking tends to lead people to isolate themselves, and that isolation only makes the disorder stronger. Feeding off the loneliness, depression grows when there is nothing around to keep it in check. That is why it’s important to understand that you are not alone against depression.
Resources online as well as different local groups make it possible for depressed people throughout the country to find ways to connect and talk about their experiences and problems. Peer-to-peer programs, mentorship programs, and online self-help groups represent some of the ways people with depression can connect with others. The ability to talk to people who have been depressed about your own depression can make a significant difference, especially knowing that they may understand you better than most ever have.
It’s not just through group therapy and mental health recovery communities that you can drive home the point to yourself that you’re not in this alone. Open up to friends and loved ones about your depression. Help them understand what it is you’re going through and point them towards the resources they need to learn more about your condition and how it has been affecting you. We’re loyal to the ones we love and care for, and when we know someone in our circle is hurt, we flock around them to help them recover and come back stronger than ever.
It Takes Courage to Get Help
A common misconception among many who struggle with depression is the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that depression is not a disorder that is easily overcome, let alone overcome through sheer will. You need help in order to realistically treat depression but asking for that help means accepting the vulnerability that comes with it in a time and place where being mentally ill is still seen as a mark against your character. It takes resolve, strength, and courage to accept that you are depressed, and that you need professional and medical attention.
On the other hand, trying to lie to yourself about your condition or simply stay silent is not the mark of a strong person, but a sign that you’re succumbing to fear. Yes, it’s difficult to admit to yourself that you are depressed, and that there is little you can do to help yourself right now. But the only way to get better is to get help. It’s the only way to seek a better future, to embrace the possibility that things will be better in time. You owe it to yourself to try, no matter how hard it is in the beginning.
How Depression Is Treated
Treatment for depression is often complex. This means that the most effective way to treat depression is to approach it from several different angles, addressing a person’s mental health through medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and more. This can be overwhelming at first, but after the initial shock wears off, treatment can be seamlessly integrated into normal everyday living. You can seek treatment and still work, still go to school, still pursue your dreams and passions.
The first line treatment for depression is medication, particularly a type of medication known as an antidepressant. Antidepressants affect the cells in the brain and work to increase the availability of certain chemicals linked to improved mood and decreased depressive symptoms.
When medication doesn’t work, other treatment methods are explored, from therapy and hypnosis to acupuncture and deep brain stimulation. In patients with treatment-resistant depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been shown to be particularly effective.
No matter what treatment you end up trying first, it’s important not to give up. Treatments may work for some time then falter or may yield no noticeable changes at first. It’s important to be patient and to take things one day at a time, understanding that depression develops and must be treated individually, due to unique considerations from patient to patient. And as we continue to discover more about the brain and the development of depression, our treatments improve.
Don’t Be Afraid to Return to Treatment
Depression is generally believed to be chronic, and we know that, as of today, no effective cure exists. It can be suppressed, treated, and pushed into remission, but it’s also likely to come back in a certain percentage of people. While most people diagnosed with depression typically only experience it for a few weeks or months, some are left struggling with long-term symptoms. For these patients, treatment is not just a one-time thing.
Don’t be afraid to seek out help again when symptoms return, and never neglect the effectiveness of a healthier lifestyle and healthy coping mechanisms, even in the face of a strong depressive episode.