TW: Suicide, Depression
As we enter suicide prevention week, it’s important to take time to reflect on our own mental health. Especially in today’s world, with the devastation and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, lockdowns and isolation measures make suffering in silence easier. Without the typical escapes some would use to take care of their mental health (i.e., hanging out with friends and seeing family), mental deterioration and exhaustion has been an issue for a lot of people. Even without taking the pandemic into account, depression remains one of the most common mental health struggles in the US; according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 17.3 million adults in the United States had suffered from at least one major depressive episode as of 2017.
Depression is a complex illness that manifests differently for every person — it’s not simply just ‘feeling sad’. While feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts are most commonly associated with depression, it is important to note the other symptoms that can go along with it. Depression can look like extreme irritability, constant fatigue or appetite changes, restlessness, insomnia, and a myriad of physical symptoms. The stigma that this illness is ‘just sadness’ minimizes the people struggling with it; we need to stop putting depression into this tiny box in order to help those dealing with it. A harmful question that a lot of depressed people are asked is often along the lines of: what do you even have to be depressed about? This question, while sometimes asked with good intentions, belittles someone greatly. Just because someone has a ‘happy’ life outwardly, with many things ‘going for them’ — school, work, a happy relationship, and a lot of friends — does not equal perfect mental health. Anyone can become depressed; we see this with celebrities frequently. They are rich, famous, and apparently ‘have it all’, but still, they suffer. Robin Williams, Amy Winehouse, Mac Miller are all examples of this. Because major depression can be a result of legitimate chemical imbalance in the brain, and not based solely on outside forces, it can feel impossible to pull oneself out of a depressive episode without any outside help. Understanding what depression is and can truly look like is key in leading more people to getting help.
Therapy in the United States has become increasingly accessible over the past few years. Seeking help used to be a taboo, and it was hushed and quieted if families or individuals sought it out. If someone went to therapy, it was a dirty word, and something was ‘wrong’ with them. This continues to be one of the largest misconceptions about seeking therapy. The idea that something has to be very, very wrong to talk to someone is a damaging stigma that needs to be erased. Therapy is not just for those who suffer from extreme mental health struggles or psychological damage — it can be for anyone. Life is stressful and complicated, particularly so during this past year. Sorting through your feelings and thoughts is key in good mental health practices. Understanding and introspection with a therapist can help one find coping mechanisms for mild to severe depression. Feelings of depression, no matter how mild, are good enough reason to talk to someone. Feeling stressed out and overwhelmed are good enough reasons to talk to someone. Any reason is a good enough reason to talk to someone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if you think your problems aren’t big enough — everyone needs help every now and then.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression and/or having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak to a counselor 24/7.
If you are uncomfortable with phone calls, text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7.