More than 350 million people around the world live with mental illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. And yet, conditions such as depression remain highly stigmatized, affecting family and work performance. For Mental Health Awareness Month, here are five myths about depression and positive approaches for dealing with this common illness.
Myth: Being positive will make depression go away.
Fact: A common response to loved ones living with depression is to “look on the bright side.” Although common phrases like “it could be worse” are well-intended, the fact is that these comments can actually make symptoms of depression worse. Depression is a legitimate medical condition as serious as any physical affliction. It can be caused by a variety of external and internal factors, such as brain chemistry, genetics, trauma, and past abuse. Depressive symptoms are often out of a sufferer’s control and should be taken seriously.
Myth: People with depression are all lazy.
Fact: Depression affects people in different ways, but it isn’t a sign of weakness or laziness. It can manifest as lethargy and a lack of energy to complete even mundane tasks, but depression can also look like:
- Maintaining normal routines and hiding depressive feelings
- Lack of engagement; being “checked out”
- Loss of interest in activities that used to spark joy
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Overeating or appetite loss
Fact: It’s a common misconception that talking about feelings of depression reinforces them. But bottling up feelings of depression can exacerbate underlying issues, and ignoring symptoms of depression in others only serves to further isolate that person. It can be a relief when friends and family notice someone with depression is not acting like themselves. Steady support—even just listening—can make a world of difference.
Myth: Antidepressants change a person’s personality.
Fact: Antidepressants do change brain chemistry, but only target certain chemicals; specifically, those that in non-depressed brains function as they should. Although a small percentage of people experience negative side effects of medication, people with depression can work with health professionals to get the right prescription and dosage to enjoy life again and feel better faster.
Myth: Nothing can help people with depression.
Fact: Don’t suffer in silence. Getting help for depression is easier than ever. A variety of treatments—including therapy, medication, and even smartphone apps—can help alleviate symptoms.
Having trouble getting started? Call or email ACI Specialty Benefits, your confidential Employee Assistance Program, to access referrals to mental health professionals and other resources: 800.932.0034 or firstname.lastname@example.org.