Five myths about depression that need to be challenged

Counsellor Lynn Crilly talks us through five common misconceptions about depression.

Five myths about depression that need to be challenged

Whether or not you’ve had to deal with some of life’s hard knocks, whatever your background, depression doesn’t discriminate.

It can hit for absolutely no reason, or creep in when you’re forced to cope with tough life events. Whatever the reason, the illness affects around 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). But despite being relatively common, depression still spawns many myths and that’s not helpful.

“Depression can affect people from all different walks of life, regardless of social background, age, gender, sexuality or ethnicity,” says counsellor Lynn Crilly, author of Hope With Depression.

“It’s a deep-rooted, debilitating and destructive mental illness that affects both the sufferers and their carers alike, and ‘facts’ are often quoted in relation to depression that are actually myths, which can prevent people from getting to grips with and really being able to understand depression.”

Here, Ms Crilly tackles some of the common myths about depression.

1. It’s obvious when people have depression
“Many people with depression hide it very successfully, or at least try their very hardest to. They may be so good at concealing how they really feel that only the most alert loved ones may see what’s really happening behind that smile. This is where knowing someone well, and knowing what’s normal for them, is vital. If they start showing unusual behaviour, perhaps sleeping or eating in a way that causes concern, dig deeper to see if depression or another mental illness could be the cause.”

2. Antidepressants are the only way to treat depression
“Some people see antidepressant medication as something to be feared (and often avoided), because of concerns about its side-effects and whether it could lead to an addiction. Those concerns should certainly not be ignored, but neither should they put people off seeking medical help for depression.

“The best person to advise a patient about whether medication is suitable for them, and what the effects of taking it might be, is their GP. However, that’s not to say all responsibility should be handed to a medical practitioner. The patient themselves, along with their loved ones, should ask about side-effects and remain alert to any potential problems they may cause.

“Medication is also only one line of treatment. It’s not always needed and therapy or counselling can also be very effective, while other alternative therapies may also be helpful.”

3. Depression affects mainly women
“While the number of women known to be suffering with depression is greater than the number of men, we also know men are much less likely to come forward to seek help for their symptoms, and in our ‘macho’ society, perhaps find it harder to talk about their state of mind.

“However, the shocking fact that the biggest cause of death among men under the age of 50 is suicide clearly shows that men are also suffering with mental illness, and they need to be right at the centre of the conversation about it.

“This myth that ‘real men’ don’t get depression must also be scotched. Unfortunately, many men still believe depression is a kind of weakness and shouldn’t be acknowledged. This makes the illness even more dangerous for men than women, as again they are less likely to ask for help.”

4. There’s no longer a taboo about depression
“Make no mistake, huge strides have been made in the way depression is recognised and understood. The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has spearheaded a mental health initiative, Heads Together, to help break the stigma around mental illness and change how the wider society understands depression and other related illnesses. Suddenly it seemed awareness about these conditions had been placed firmly under the spotlight, and a real shift seems to have occurred in how mental illness is viewed at work, by the media, and in wider society.

“However, the battle is not won. People are still wary of admitting they have a mental illness, worried they’ll be judged, excluded and even potentially put their careers at risk. There are still misconceptions about what mental illness really feels like, and there’s still a long way to go in society’s understanding of the issues.”

5. You can’t help people with depression
“You can’t wave a magic wand and make the depression disappear, but you can support and care for someone with the illness and show them acceptance and understanding, and in doing so you’ll help make their journey through depression easier to bear.

“Plus, appropriate professionals, teachers, youth workers and employers can play a very important role in ensuring they deal with depression appropriately, just as they would a physical illness. Society as a whole can help and support people with depression, by showing tolerance, acceptance and true understanding to those who suffer with it.”

Is there anything else you wish people knew about depression?

– With PA

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    4th Jun 2020
    people ( governments etc ) think talk therapy fixes a lot of mental health issues especially depression . ( wrong wrong wrong ) the system wont provide what is needed to help those battling depression . the mental health system is like a stage set , looks nice from up front but there is nothing behind it
    Country John
    4th Jun 2020
    I have suffered chronic depression for most of my life but about 12 years ago it bit hard. I spent a lot of years on medication which did little to help. I then changed clinics and psychiatrist and have had steady improvement with TMS treatment. It is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation which may sound scary but it isn't. Find a clinic/psychiatrist that uses this method of treatment and go there. It has helped need in huge amounts and I have seen many other patients benefit from it. If you have difficulty finding somewhere go online and visit TMS Australia who can help you find somewhere. If you know someone who suffers from depression pass it on to them. It will be worth it.
    4th Jun 2020
    Go out into the sunshine and do some excercise then get involved in helping someone else.
    These strategies have been shown to work better than any drug treatments.
    Country John
    4th Jun 2020
    When suffering depression day after day getting out of bed can be nearly impossible. The Sunshine and exercise helps but you have to get to be able to do that. Medication is still the number one weapon in the fight against depression.
    Karl Marx
    4th Jun 2020
    I lived with a depressant for 14 years, I coped with her depression every day & supported her throughout her very often difficult times. In the end she tried to get me on the same medication whenever I was a bit down or not happy. She even spoke to the family doctor to give me a prescription for antidepressants & when she found out that I wasn't taking them all hell broke loose especially when she demanded, yes demanded that I take the medication prescribed by the family doctor who was pressured by her to prescribe them. I refused point blank then kicked her out.
    I will never ever have a relationship again with a women suffering depression. Just not worth the grief of going through all the bullshit & having to lie to family & friends to cover for her all the time.
    This may upset a few who say I’m an uncompassionate bastard, well yes I suppose I became that. But what about me, I had to suffer in silence because of her mental condition.
    Life is so much easier & hassle free now.
    Many articles have been written on depression but not much support for those who aren’t depressed but have to live daily with someone who is.
    5th Jun 2020
    Yes, I believe good diet and exercise makes a huge difference to your mental health as well as your body, I got sick 9 years ago and got depressed, once I got well by changing my diet I got all the nutrients I needed and all my anxiety and depression went away. Your gut bacteria plays a big part of this too. And having the right mind set by letting go of the past. Depression is worrying about the past and anxiety is worrying about the future. I also believe medications especially so called anti-depressants make things worse.
    6th Jun 2020
    Yes ! It can be helped in some way when the isolation by this disgustingly imposed home imprisonment is removed and human liberties regained!
    29th Jun 2020
    Clinical depression is not a topic on which laypeople should proffer advice.
    "Pull your socks up. Do good deeds. Change your diet. Get out in the sunshine" just doesn't cut it.
    Eventually with the help of trained people these things may become possible .
    Please suggest medical help and offer a ride to the doctor if you know the person well. Just be there for them.

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